To Kill A Mockingbird: Similarities in Tom and Boo's lives

Vanessa

Certain uncanny resemblances between Tom Robinson and Boo Radley's lives exist in Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. Often large groups of people misunderstand certain unusual individuals. Sometimes they stereotype the person; other times, they simply do not bother to find out the truth. When such circumstances occur, the ostracized person's actions become unfairly misinterpreted or not understood at all. Sometimes rumors circulate about the individuals, that might then be assumed as the truth. In this novel, Tom and Boo are both outsiders to the white, normal society of Maycomb county. Tom and Boo share generous natures that are misunderstood; they hold little social value, and are generally assumed guilty.


The first parallel in the lives of Tom and Boo, focuses on their property. Tom lives in the "nigger nest" (pg. 175) near to Mr. Ewell but outside the city limits. While testifying Mr. Ewell says, "I've asked this county for fifteen years to clean out that nest down yonder, they're dangerous to live around 'sides devaluin' my property (pg. 175)". A person's status often relates to his property, and the interpretation of that property's value is often based on the tenants of the land. In Maycomb county, the black community inhabits the least desirable property. In the Jim Crow era, blacks were stereotyped as violent and unclean; therefore, the property they owned was considered unvaluable and was located in the worst part of the county territory. On the other hand, the people in the "best" part of town are always white and upper class members of society. Mr. Ewell lives directly next to the town dump, yet he considers the blacks that he lives near a larger threat to his land's value than the appearance and stench of the city's trash. Most people in the better parts of town might even agree with him because they assume that the black people are a constant menace to white society, and being near them endangers one's life.


The Radley property also threatens the lives of people brave enough to venture near it. The children believe that anything that comes from the Radley's soil is poisoned, including the nuts and fruits on the trees. Jem yells at Scout once saying about the Radley property: "Don't you know you're not supposed to even touch the house over there? You'll get killed if you do" (pg. 33). Jem also goes so far as to say, "if Dill wants to get himself killed, all he had to do was go up and knock on the front door (pg. 13)" No child has ever died from touching something on the Radley property, yet the children continue to believe it to be true. They envision Boo as a horrible beast that eats squirrels and rats with his bare hands who loves to kill children. In the end of the novel, the reader discovers that Boo emerges as a timid man who would never consider hurting a child. Yet, the children do not know or understand Boo, so they make his property threatening and evil. The excitement-hungry children assume Boo and his house jeopardize their lives because of the stigma associated with Boo.


Society characterizes both of these misunderstood people as amoral and threatening. Therefore, no one wants to go on the land they own, because their values and lives could be risked by simply being near such a type of person. Tom and Boo live outside the bounds of Maycomb county as citizens, and their property becomes a threat to children and adults alike.


Another similarity of their lives exists because most people assume their guilt. Without any evidence or reliable knowledge of the situation, Jem, Scout, and Dill assume the stories of Boo attacking his father are true. In one of their children's plays: "Dill would walk by, cough at Jem, and Jem would fake a plunge into Dill's thigh. From where I stood it looked real (pg. 40)". Children who have only heard shady stories of such an incident, put it on display for the whole neighborhood to watch. They do not ask their father if the story ever happened or ask the sheriff, who was supposedly involved. They simply assume his guilt. The story itself seems ludicrous, but its absurdity does not hamper the children in retelling the story on their porch. Once they