QP: So, I really agree that although Boo is shown on the surface as a thing to be afraid of, writing for the audience Harper Lee lets us know with a few signals that really, he’s quite possibly a victim. And that gets unpacked in the few chapters we’ve just finished reading: there was Jem’s nighttime adventures, and the cementing of the knot-hole, that really give a sense of Boo as almost trapped, looking for ways into the outside world.
I think that’s a pattern that’s reflected in a few other cases, as well. We as readers can infer things about Scout’s world from her narration that she, ostensibly, doesn’t know as a child. What comes to mind at this early stage is the back and forth between the adults in her world; histories and tensions that aren’t spelt out, but that we can read in from her narrative.
Another thing that I found interesting as we were reading is how we approach historical works … that is to say, as modern readers, whether we enunciate the ‘n’ word. Michael Chabon, who is a beautiful writer, wrote a reflection on reading Huckleberry Finn with his children, which I found interesting. I suppose the decision depends on a whole range of things, like audience and context and the text, but I just thought it was interesting. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The final development in the chapters we’ve finished is the fire. Pausing where we have (and because I’ve completely forgotten the plot from when I read it many years ago), it’s interesting to see how it propels the narrative. I don’t know yet (or can’t recall) whether Miss Maudie’s move is significant; or whether the narrative depends more on the jacket from Boo Radley.
GF: I agree that Boo Radley is described as being the object of fear though he really is the victim. Harper Lee has given us a few clues, including his father being declared by Calpurnia to be “the meanest man God ever blew life into”. As such, Boo’s acts of affection and kindness to Jem and Scout indicate to me that he is a hero of sorts – he devises ways to help and treat the children despite as you say, being trapped. To me, these acts seem to be little acts of defiance. Old Mr Radley purposefully enclosed Boo from external influences but Boo’s inner strength and humanity shine through – he has managed to establish a connection, weak though it is, with the Finch children. Even after decades in isolation, the strict discipline forced upon Boo seem unable to quash Boo’s spirit.
Speaking of homes, I think TKaM touches on the concept of home quite a bit. Up to this point, we have been introduced to an array of homes, including: the fear-inducing Radley home (for those inside and outside), the poor but principled Cunningham home, and the Ewell home where the family “lived like animals” according to Atticus. In this chapter, we learn about Finch’s Landing and through cousin Francis, realise that Dill “…hasn’t got a home”. In contrast, the Finch home is a warm and stable one, largely owing tothe efforts of a wise and loving Atticus. The fire at Miss Maudie’s house also corresponds to the home idea – in her mind, a dwelling does not equal a home and she is confident that she will be able to establish a home again soon. Like you, I can’t remember whether this is significant later on but I’m curious to see.
Thank you for the link to Michael Chabon’s reflection – it was indeed interesting but didn’t answer the question! What is the correct substitute?? I look forward to discussing with you.
This leads me to my final observation on chapters 8 and 9, which relates to language. Atticus is different from his fellow Maycombers in many ways, as we have discussed, and language is yet another way. The majority of the town use the ‘n’ word while he employs the ‘N’ word.
Atticus also seems to understand the power of language. He turns a blind eye Scout’s swearing phase in the knowledge that the words did not reflect bad intentions or thoughts, despite Uncle Jack’s displeasure.