Jessie Harper’s Response to Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Unlike most youth I was never required to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” in grade school or to analyze it through the looking glass of racism. As an adult, it has been much simpler to see the injustice of the time or that it is set between people of a certain color. However, to look at this novel and all of the other works this semester with the mind of seeing more than just the what is in the center stage has been interesting and enlightening to say the least. We often see things that we identify with, but will undoubtably ignore things that have little to no effect or commonality to our lives. This is true when reading a book and noticing characters. You can without a doubt notice the protagonist, but will disregard the connection of a lower character. We are only interested in these lower characters when the protagonist is.

This is true for Arthur “Boo” Radley. When Scout isn’t thinking of him our thoughts aren’t drawn to him. “Boo” Radley I would even say is different still. In the story the children are the only ones who care to think about this man who is considered to be “different”. How he is different however is never actually stated in the book. Harper Lee has created a fantastic development of a character throughout the novel. This does not allow for “Boo” Radley to be a relatable character with his disability because the disability is never named. But then the character is relatable because the “wrongness” is never pinpointed.

Does having the assumption that something is “wrong” with you by societal norms make you disabled? This was possibly the motive behind this lack of labeling of Harper Lee’s. One of my fellow classmates said it best when she spoke about focusing on naming one “disability”. Too often we tangled in the idea of needed to fit in a box and for everyone around us to fit in said box as well. That we forget that there are many different sized boxes in the world. “Boo” Radley cared for the children that is evident, from leaving them gifts, to covering Scout with a blanket, and finally fighting for them against Bob Ewell.

Disability or not he was still human because all of those acts are out of caring and love, with human emotion. He was unknowingly willing to put his very life on the line for these children who had been afraid of him being “different”. We have to remember that we can have multiple identities or disabilities. But this allows us to look at the world with a different perspective, with different glasses, if you will. What one person sees as a disability, another can see a strength. What “Boo” Radley does might have not been accomplished by someone with all abilities, because they did not see it the same way he did. It is why we use the term “rose colored glasses” or the “grass is greener on the other side.”

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