Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has a lot to say, but one thing in particular that really stood out to me and that I found fascinating to read about, is the character Boo Radley. While it’s never specifically stated that Boo has a disability in the story, it’s often left open to the reader’s interpretation and we can infer from Lee’s way of describing the character that Boo, to some extent has some sort of disability and I think Lee’s handling with the character really shines a light on the stereotypes that surround individuals with disabilities.
Early on in the book, Boo Radley has become famous around town as a recluse that is hardly seen by almost anyone. He is often described by his neighboring individuals as a freak, an outcast, a lunatic, and is even referred to as a “malevolent phantom” who eats squirrels and cats by one of the main characters of the book. However, as the story develops and readers get further into it, we learn that Boo is actually a really genuine person. We come to learn that it is Boo who mends Jem’s pants and that it is also him who has been placing the presents in the tree.
I would argue that Boo is an embodiment of the stereotypes that nondisabled individuals place associate with people with disabilities. Unfortunately, as we have learned throughout the course, nondisabled individuals oftentimes view disabled people as a problem that needs fixing, a monster, or a victim of their disability, when that’s simply not true. A disabled person may have a physical or a mental difference from a nondisabled individual, but that doesn’t make them some sort of creature. When it comes down to it, disability or not, we’re all people and oftentimes some individuals fail to see that, so they stigmatize a and stereotype people that are different from them, and thats not okay. It’s an unfortunate thing that happens even today, so I think it’s an important topic of discussion to be had and I commemorate Lee for discussing such matter within her novel.
One thought on “Zachary Welsh’s Thoughts on To Kill a Mockingbird”
Hey Zachary! I think you hit the nail on the head in your categorization of Boo Radley and his representation of the disabled. Rereading this novel, it’s interesting to see that when I read this book in 7th and 9th grade, I never realized Boo Radley had a disability at all. I thought he was some strange man who had become some type of local legend, like the haunted house up on the hill kind of legend. Sometimes, I wonder about where societal biases against the disabled come from. Children don’t start off afraid of children who have disabilities, and in their younger years, they don’t even really consider what it means to be disabled, except for their friend being “different” than they are.
I think Lee touches on the origins of this bias, stemming from societal standards and word of mouth, as Scout’s interest in Boo demonstrates. The older kids tell her horror stories and make him seem scary, making her thought of him change and alter to fit to what she’s been told.