Harper Lee prejudice against Boo

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines prejudice as “an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.” This type of prejudice was what Arthur “Boo” Radley had to endure every day of his lifetime in the town of Maycomb County, Alabama. “People determined to preserve every physical scrap of the past” (185). The residents of Maycomb are, for the most part, paper-cut copies of the typical Southerner. They are very traditional, keeping much of their former beliefs and activities as possible. However, there is a notable few that do not quite fit with the rest of the town, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, Jeremy Atticus “Jem” Finch, Arthur “Boo” Radley and Charles “Dill” Baker Harris.

In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee skillfully shows how Scout, Jem, and Dill were prejudice against Boo, when in fact; all these children are comparable to Boo even if they had not noticed so. Their personality differences from the rest of the town, the care of their fathers, and wanting to connect with someone are what makes Scout, Jem and Dill relatable to Boo, with their similarities mentioned respectively, also all of them share the innocence represented by the symbolism of a mockingbird. Since the beginning of time, society has had “non-written” rules about the way that its citizens are supposed to behave.

Therefore, when individuals do not follow these customary norms, the community will look down upon them or try to change them. In Maycomb, these “strange” individuals are Scout and Boo. Scout’s personality is not very lady-like for a girl at the time; likewise, Boo is seen as unusual since he is reclusive. Southern women were by default supposed to be “ladies.” Their definition of a “lady” is to be well mannered, well spoken and well dressed. Scout does not possess these qualities; she is actually very reckless and wears overalls instead of dresses.

For this reason, Scout is seen as very peculiar, but instead of being accepted she begins being impelled by her Uncle Jack, Jem, and Aunt Alexandra to become a Southern lady. When Uncle Jack comes to visit the Finch residency, he is appalled by Scout’s foul language. He sternly says to her, “… I’ll be here a week, and I don’t want to hear any words like that while I’m here… You want to grow up to be a lady, don’t you?”(90). This clearly shows the attitude the general public had towards the way a lady is supposed to speak. I agree completely with Uncle Jack scolding Scout over swearing since she is still a child, but why does the comment have to be directed towards being a lady instead of to being polite? Jem also joins in on scolding Scout for not being ladylike.

As he is maturing, he sees the abundant difference between his sister, Scout, and the way he perceives other women. Jem yelled at her after a fight, “It’s time you started bein’ a girl and acting right!”(131). It is interesting to see how Jem is falling for the structural way of thinking as the rest of the town. Girls had to be playing “gentle” things, such as with dolls, or knitting fancy quilts. On the other hand, Scout is into playing with dirt and rolling around in wheels, which was not seen as “acting like a girl.” Aunt Alexandra also implied this when she said, “I wasn’t supposed to be doing things that required pants”(92). Aunt Alexandra’s version of “being a girl” is “playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl necklace”(93). For Scout this is not fair, being a lady meant substituting the activities she grew up doing with what others expect her to do.

Comparable to Scout is Boo Radley, the more obvious example, Boo was ostracized by society for simply being different. For a while, the Maycomb population has looked down upon Boo, with unfounded rumors about him. When Jem is asked to describe him, he says the following, “…his hands were bloodstained… There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time” (14). This shows how the town’s prejudice against Boo has gotten to the point where he became an urban legend. In reality, all he ever did was stay at home bothering no one for years. Boo has had to deal with a copious amount of unfair perceptions about him, just like African-Americans at the time. It is interesting to see how much a white man could be discriminated against for not acting the “normal” way in society. It is human nature to be judgmental against ideologies that go against our own, that is why Scout and Boo were so targeted for being different. However, it is captivating how people do not realize their own prejudices. Scout was judging Boo for the majority of the novel when she herself did not like when others judged her for being different. Another character that does not realize his connection with Boo is Jem. Both of them have fathers who care a great deal about them; they are always looking out for their children with what they believe it is right. Jem’s father, Atticus, is among the few people in Maycomb who are actually pragmatic in their outlook of society.

He looked out for Jem by teaching him how to be ethical and moral. He taught his children about putting themselves in other people’s shoes, to be tolerant and to be respectful of their elders. Perhaps, the most powerfully shown instance of Atticus looking out for Jem is when he disciplines Jem for damaging Mrs. Dubose’s garden. Atticus knows that Mrs. Dubose is very hard to deal with, but he feels everyone deserves respect no matter what. “Son, I have no doubt that you’ve been annoyed by your contemporaries about me lawing for niggers, as you say, but to do something like this to a sick old lady is inexcusable.

I strongly advise you to go down and have a talk with Mrs. Dubose” (119). This is what Atticus always wanted to instill in Jem, to have tolerance for others. For Atticus, Jem cannot ethically assault Mrs. Dubose, even if she torments them. Atticus wants Jem to grow up with the right set of values because he cares about Jem. Boo’s father, Mr. Radley, has an awfully different way of showing his care.

When Boo was going to be sent to a state industrial school, Mr. Radley thought it was a disgrace. It was even said in page 11, “If the judge released Arthur, Mr. Radley would see to it that Arthur gave no further trouble. Knowing that Mr. Radley’s word was his bond, judge was glad to do so.” Subsequential to this, Mr. Radley locked Boo inside their house for years, not speaking to single person outside of his home. Although, this is an extreme way of showing how Mr. Radley cares about Boo, he is still demonstrating that he does not want to let him fall in the wrong path.

Also, considering that the Radley household was known to be “foot-washing Baptists” it would make sense why Mr. Radley would believe that holding Boo at home would be the best way to show his caring. The last character to compare with Boo is Dill. Dill is from is another innocent character that enjoys his childlike adventures and imagination, but yet he is a neglected child. He mentions, “They just wasn’t interested in me.” (161). This caused him to run away by himself, which is a very big thing for someone of his age to do. While comparing these characters, all of them have a certain innocence about them that is being taken advantage of. Also, Both Boo and Dill want someone to connect with. I think this because Boo risks alot to connect with Jem and Scout. Dill runs away because his new family doesn’t show interest in him. They give him everything you can but but what he wants is love.

The same goes for Jem, since he is also a son of Atticus, he has to deal with the taunting of other people for his father’s decision to defend an African-American. He is also an innocent kid, only four years older than Scout, that enjoys playing imaginary games, but is forced to grow up quickly with all the lessons that Atticus has taught him in order to grow up to be a lawyer like him.

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (103). A mockingbird could represent an easy victim due to its utter innocence, just like Miss Maudie mentioned in the above quote, they do not do anything but chirp, they are not going to hurt anyone, but there are still people who will hurt them due to being such easy prey. A clear example of a character that reflects a mockingbird easily is Boo Radley. Very similar to Scout and Jem, they are looked down upon the townspeople for sharing their father’s ideology of defending African-Americans.

However, they are just kids, making them innocent and easy prey for the rest of the town to pick on. Scout is an innocent girl who is only six years old, but shortly, she begins being stripped of her innocence with all the lessons she forced to learn by Atticus, her father, because of how prejudice Maycomb’s community is.

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