Take Me Home
Walking in Boo Radley's skin
“Will you take me home?”
He almost whispered it, in the voice of a child afraid of the dark.
Readers, allow me to make a confession: As I write, I only just today got around to reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Yes, I know. In my defense, I had a very full middle/high school literature education. I just missed this spot, though of course I got the gist by cultural osmosis. But now that I’ve finally read everyone else’s favorite book, naturally I’m eager to compose what’s sure to be a highly original take on it. So, please indulge me while I think out loud a bit about the figure who sits (to me) at the real heart of the story—Boo Radley.
(Spoilers follow, so for those who, like me, for some reason also missed this spot, I recommend fixing that and coming back!)
I say Boo Radley is at the heart of the story, though as readers know, he has very little raw “page-time.” He’s completely absent from the iconic courtroom drama on which the novel’s reputation largely rests. But this searing critique of racial prejudice is only one piece of a story about prejudice writ large. Young Scout comes of age by learning to see not just Tom Robinson, but everyone in her town through new eyes, “walking in their skin,” as Atticus famously instructs her. At the risk of heresy, she learns this lesson so many different times that I’d argue the theme almost wears out its welcome. (Which is why if I were to rank-order my favorite American coming-of-age novels, I would probably place Mockingbird slightly behind a work like, say, Chaim Potok’s The Chosen—not that anyone has asked me.)
Of course, Lee’s writing is so elegant that we ultimately don’t mind learning and re-learning the lesson with Scout. And the lesson learned from Boo Radley, whose arc bookends the work, is indelibly haunting.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial