Boo and Tom Misunderstood in To Kill a Mockingbird
In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Atticus tells Jem and Scout to, "Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird," he is referring to the notion that a mockingbird is a harmless creature and does nothing but sing and bring happiness to the world. Harper Lee takes the title for her novel from this passage because the imagery of the mockingbird is analogous to the characters of both Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. These two characters are "harmless songbirds" who are sinfully destroyed.
Although Boo Radley only actually physically appears in the story once, he serves two essential purposes. At the beginning of the novel, Boo serves as an enigma to the children, giving them something to make the focal point of their games, as well as a topic of conversation. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Boo embodies more character than most of the citizens of Maycomb, emerging as a symbol of what is truly just and right. Boo stands up for what he believes is right, no matter what people think of him.
In the beginning of the story, Boo represents the unknown. The children wonder about Boo and his strange way of life, but really have no concept of who he is. At first, the children ask questions about Boo with regards to his "weird" living style. When this does not satisfy their curiosities, they make up games and stories about Boo which present him as being a monster. At one point, the children invade the Radley property in hopes of finding some clue which will better explain Boo's character
As the story progresses, Boo becomes more of a symbol of kindness and bravery than that of the "town freak" which he is made out to be. Boo leaves presents for the children in the hollow trunk of an old tree, as well as covers Scout with a blanket during Miss Maudie's fire. However, it is not until he saves Jem and Scout's life from the hands of the deranged Mr. Ewell, that Boo shows his true heroic character. Even though Boo is a physically weaker man, he shows no fear when it comes to protecting Jem and Scout's life.
It is not until after this rather odd episode that Scout is finally able to come to terms with her true feelings towards Boo.