Zachary Welsh’s Thoughts on To Kill A Mockingbird Chapters 9-14

While going through these chapters, we as readers are introduced to a new and rather intriguing character named Tom Robinson. The character himself really stuck out to me due to the fact that I feel as though he embodies one of the previous topics we had discussed earlier in the course. Specifically, I feel as though the character of Tom Robinson as well as how his character affects other supporting characters, hearkens back to the ideas and concepts introduced and touched on in Jasbir Puar’s The Right to Maim. In her piece, Puar mentions how one’s race could essentially be looked at as a disability in the fact that individuals of certain races face problems and stigmatization that others do not and I feel like that is clearly seen in Tom Robinson’s character. This is evident in the fact that Tom Robinson is an African-American male who is being accused and tried for the rape of a white woman even though he is innocent. He also must face the debilitating circumstances of being an accused African-American being tried by an all white jury. On top of Robinson’s case, hist story and unfortunate circumstances also lead to other African-American characters directly linked to him being faced with hardships. Atticus, the person in charge of defending him is being stigmatized and called racial slurs, Helen Robinson, Tom’s wife, is unable to get any work due to her husband’s current status, and main characters Jem and Scout become subjects of whispers and glances around the town. The character of Tom Robinson directly embodies the ideas presented in Puar’s The Right to Maim and displays them to the reader in hopes to increase awareness of and to shed light on these issues that are still happening today.

Breakout Rooms 2/25/2021 recorded by Zachary Welsh

Members: Zachary Welsh, Taylor Boris, Jessie Harper, and Daniel Huffman

To Kill A Mockingbird:

Jessie: What do you think of boo?

Taylor: He’s an enigma that’s for sure. After taking this course, reading this book feels different and there’s things that I hadn’t noticed before.

Jessie: I dont think hes a monster like everyone thinks he is

Daniel: Why do you think Lee included his character?

Jessie: If it wasn’t for boo I don’t think the kids would’ve considered the race issue as much.

Daniel: Speaking in terms of race and disability, I can’t help but feel like we have to discuss them together. 

Jessie: No, they definitely run parallel with one another. I can’t wait for my kid to actually read this book so I can get their perspective on it. 

Zachary: I feel like Boo kind of represents the stereotypes that are associated with people with disabilities. Like these characters know nothing about him and yet he’s described as a recluse and a freak or when he’s called a malevolent phantom. And I think it’s interesting because even today people stereotype disabled individuals even without knowing anything about them, so its an important thing to discuss..

Taylor: Yeah that’s definitely true, I think that’s a good point.

Daniel and Jessie: I feel like he might be on the spectrum but I could be wrong. 

As Good As It Gets:

Taylor: It talked about the queer side of disability which I thought was interesting because I feel like that’s one of the most marginalized groups that aren’t talked about. 

Jessie: Yeah that group in general isn’t talked about. 

Taylor: There’s a lot of good points that are brought up in here 

Jessie: Yeah it’s like a whole group that isn’t even talked about here 

Daniel: No one ever breaks down the LGBT community so it was really nice to get an article about that 

Taylor: I feel like this reading talks a lot about how there’s a lot more to people than others assume.Jessie and Daniel: This is such a massively under talked about group because people don’t think about them.

Zachary Welsh’s Thoughts on To Kill a Mockingbird

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.

J. Faith Hopkins’s Response to Jillian Weise’s “Nondisabled Demands” and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

Jillian Weise’s poem “Nondisabled Demands” informs the reader about how people who know about others’ disabilities will treat them. In contrast, in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, the reader can see that the unknown will either scare or spark curiosity in others. Whether it is better to hide the truth or reveal disability to the public is argued over between these authors. While each has a different opinion, both of them have experience with the same issue: the infectious effects of gossip and the lie about disability.

In the beginning of the novel, “Boo” Radley is introduced in several stories. These stories are mostly negative and brand “Boo” as a dangerous character that should be locked up to avoid “no further trouble” (13). As Weise states in her poem, “You can’t expect people to read you / if you don’t come out and say it” which causes gossip to spread (line 6, 7). Lee and Weise show just how much people do not know about other people’s lives, even more so when he or she has a concealed disability. Compared to Weise’s poem, Lee’s novel represents disability in a negative light. The poem “Nondisabled Demands” still shows how disability is seen as a cumbersome weight, “an inspiration,” something to overcome, in other people’s eyes. The novel represents what happens when other people fear it when it is hidden from the public (line 18). Although in Weise’s poem, she states that if someone does have a disability, he or she should be transparent about it, but considering what has or has not happened to “Boo” Radley in the past,—not to mention his nickname—it would be harder for the Radley’s to follow Weise’s advice. “Boo” Radley is not seen as a charity case; instead he is seen as a monster. Even if the Radley’s were clear about their son’s condition it does not guarantee that the gossiping would stop. 

Weise then continues on to say that if the person with a disability does not comply with the public, the people would “rope [he or she] to the podium” and continue to force a reply (line 13, 14). A parallel is seen between these two works of literature. Jem, Dill, and Scout end up attempting to lure “Boo” out to answer some questions about his past. Even though their intentions are innocent, their perceptions are damaging. Jem compares “Boo” to a turtle and proceeds to say that “turtles can’t feel” (18). This may be just Jem’s naivete, but Lee’s choices here appear meaningful. This could be Lee’s way of showing her audience how disability was viewed back in the thirties when there wasn’t much to know about it, especially through children’s eyes. Instead of keeping their distance, the kids are constantly drawn to the house partly because they are curious and partly because they are concerned. Dill questions “Boo” Radley’s state of mind: “How’d you feel if you’d been shut up for a hundred years with nothin’ but cats to eat?” (62). Again, the character’s idea of “Boo” Radley is distorted, but matches up with what Weise states in her poem about pitying the disabled. Either people will fear the unknown or pity it, but for children they do both.

Even though these are different situations in front of different audiences, the literary works coexist together to break the misconceptions about disability and how it should not be handled by the public. Instead of making up stories about the disabled and being noisy, the community should keep to themselves and realize that even people with disabilities can feel, too.

Word Count: 598

I pledge… J. Faith Hopkins