Keona May’s Major Project

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” 

Keona May  

My idea for this project was originally going to be in the form of a paper. My original plan was to write a paper about how the adult characters in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” could have and should have intervened with the children’s treatment of Arthur Radley and taught them sooner that just because someone is different does not innately make them dangerous. 

For instance, in the beginning of the novel when Dill was asking for a description of Arthur, Jem gave a detailed, exaggerated and embellished statement and said, “Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands were bloodstained” (Lee 47). Then he said, “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” which made Dill respond with, “Let’s try to make him come out” so they could “see what he looks like” (Lee 48). This initial association with Arthur, who they also never referred to by his actual name and solely called him Boo, with monster-like qualities caused them to torment Arthur with games about him, and they invested many hours into devising schemes to get him to come outside only to fuel their own imaginative curiosities about what he looked like. In other words, instead of taking the time to get to know Arthur or considering that the reason he remained inside is because of something he cannot control or perhaps a disability, they immediately villainized him and dehumanized him completely by making him this character who they must see simply because he is different from them. Of course this judgment can be understandable since they are children and have not had much exposure to the world yet, in addition to the time period the book takes place, racism is still rampant, and hence it is a societal norm to judge others different than them whether that be based on race, overall appearance or financial status, etc. However, adult characters like Atticus and Miss Maudie, who although made some effort to correct the children, should have made it a priority to specifically teach them that the reason Arthur chose not to leave his home is most likely not complicated or with mal-intent. Oftentimes adults try and shield children away from people who are different or who have disabilities and instead of answering questions they have, they dismiss the conversation and say phrases like “don’t stare just keep walking” which further perpetuates the stigma that people with disabilities are different in a bad way as well as the “us vs. them” superiority mindset. 

With all of this in mind, I produced a new idea for my project that I believed could be better told in the form of a painting instead of through a paper which I feared would become redundant. Consequently, my new idea was to create an abstract painting with an alluring background filled with vibrant colors as the focus of the piece and then I wanted to draw small, also abstract-looking, skeletons with different disability labels on them i.e. dyslexia, ADHD, autistic, and aspergers. The purpose of my painting and inclusion of the skeletons is to convey the message that although humans appear to be different on the outside, at our core we are all the same and are all capable of beauty. Additionally, the reason I made the painting abstract is to convey that no one person gets to define what beauty means, but it is more important than labels which is why I spent the majority of my focus on blending colors and adding eye catching, brilliantly colorful shapes. I honestly had no specific plan as to how I was going to create the abstractness look other than I picked the brightest/most aesthetically pleasing colors I had in my possession and just let my brush flow with no true rhyme or reason other than creating something that was soothing to look at. I am very pleased with the final result and I believe it conveys both my original vision and my message- that we are all capable of beauty and labels are insignificant, perfectly. 

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York :Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006.


Hi everyone. I was wondering what was everyone’s opinion on the structure/layout of this story? I read another story in a previous english class called “There There” by Tommy Orange which featured a similar layout in the sense that each chapter was told from the perspective of someone new and which is something I had not come across before. To my surprise I actually loved this style of writing because not only does it somehow make reading the text less overwhelming for me, but I really enjoy the change of narration because it gives us an opportunity to view events from way more points of view than we would receive from only one narrator or if the story was told in one point of view. Is anyone having similar experiences or perhaps disagree with me and would prefer the stability of sticking to one person’s perspective?

Keona’s Response to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

Through the usage of the characters Tom and Boo Radley, Harper Lee does an excellent job of depicting disability by offering audiences multiple lenses to view disability opposed to only a stereotypical description/characterization (depending on what that means for you or what your mind immediately pictures when someone says the word “disability”). In other words, including these characters in her text allows for readers to not confine or categorize the definition of disability to one box as it has multiple meanings, representations and ultimately there is no one way to “look” or “be diaabled”. 

The character Tom represents disability in the sense that he has no use of his left arm and is thus visibly physically disabled. Additionally, it can be argued that being black during this time served as a disability as well. This claim can be justified by the historical context of the story as well as the normalized and vulgar language used to refer to black people throughout this text. Not to mention the fact that Tom is eventually convicted of a vicious crime he did not commit simply because the town refused to believe a black man over a white man, regardless of the fact that the evidence against him would not even allow for it to be him due to his disability.  This means that his double identity of having both a physical handicap and being black were both actively working against him to receive fair treatment that nonhanicapped persons experienced on the daily. In short, one might not think of someone like Tom when they think about disability and thus his character in this text allows readers to expand their way of thinking.  

On the other hand, Boo Radley also represents disability, but not in the same way that Tom does. Dissimilar to being physically handicapped, Boo Radley’s disability is much more ambiguous and is left for the audience to decide rather than explicitly stated. For instance, Harper Lee never outright says what Boo Radley’s disability is but she drops clues such as: he is a recluse who never comes outside, which could mean his “condition”is “severe”enough for his family to need to care for him full time. Additionally, Lee differentiates the treatment that Scout gives to Jem versus how they both treat Boo. For instance, the children clearly see Boo Radley as an “other” and go out of their way to treat him as such. They treat his house like a forbidden place by daring each other to run up to it and touch it. Without knowing exactly what has happened to Boo to cause him to become a recluse they label him as “scary” and villainize him. 

In fact, they even go as far as creating a secret game about him that they at least know deep down is wrong  because they do not want to tell Atticus about it knowing they will get in trouble.

And what’s sad is that Boo seems to regard them both as children who he wants to take care of judging by how he neatly hemmed and hung Jem’s pants, and flung a blanket over Scout even though they were always devising schemes and excuses to visit the house and trying to peak at him as if he was a zoo animal.  

All and all, these characters show that disability is not constricted to one definition or one set of “symptoms”. Hopefully by contrasting these two characters, audiences are able to empathize more with persons with disabilities and not immediately villainize and further isolate people because they are not the “same”.