TKAM #3: Boo Radley-The Ghost

Throughout the novel, Boo Radley is frequently mentioned but he is never really seen as major character until well after Tom Robinson’s trial. He doesn’t actually appear Scout and Jem on Halloween from Bob Ewell, who attacked the kids with a kitchen knife. Because it was pitch black outside, Scout and Jem never actually see who saved their lives, but it is figured out fairly quickly that it was none other than Boo Radley who saved their lives, killing Bob Ewell in the process.

Heck Tate, the county sheriff realizes this, and oddly enough, he doesn’t try to arrest Boo. Instead, he actually covers up for Boo, changing the story from: ‘Arthur Radley stabbed and killed Bob Ewell’ to ‘Bob Ewell fell on top of the knife and accidentally killed himself’

It struck me as odd, hearing this from a sheriff-a man sworn to uphold and protect the law, covering up for a man who nobody has ever really met. I can’t blame him, though. Even if he killed Ewell, he did manage to stop the murder of two innocent children, right? If that doesn’t make him a hero, I don’t know what does. The book ends shortly thereafter, although it ends on a strange note. Lee brings mentions and obscure line from the beginning of the novel, in which Scout and Jem are discussing ‘Hot Steams’ or haunting spirits that you become when you die. When they pass the Radley house, they are especially reminded of the Hot Steams, and they are afraid of it. At the end of the book, when they have matured and they are saved by Boo, they dismiss the idea of haunting spirits and accept that, to quote the Buddah: “Everything is not as it seems, nor is it otherwise”. Boo is dangerous, but not to them. Bob Ewell found that out the hard way.

The day after this discussion, we discussed another text, a two page excerpt from an essay by William James titled: On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings. The text touches on the idea that everything has two sides, one good and one bad depending on the perspective of each individual. However, I have always felt that, much like in law, there are two sides to every story and the truth lies somewhere in between.

So, in the case that James brings up in his essay, involving the tearing down of a forest and replacing it with a home, he says: “Because to me, the stumps spoke of nothing but denudation….But when they¬†looked on the hideous stumps, what they thought of was personal victory”. This quote bears a strong correlation to the mystery of Boo Radley in TKAM near the end of the novel.