The southern gothic novel by Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, is set in Maycomb, Alabama during the 1930s. The setting of this book plays an extremely important role in how the characters come to be and how they develop during the story. One character that was directly affected by the setting was Boo Radley. Boo Radley was an outsider and seen as less than the others in the town because of his reclusive actions. This ultimately leads Boo to become unstable.
Boo Radley is an outcast in this story because during the time of the novel, it was unacceptable to act different from the rest of society. Boo Radley is a recluse and based on the conversation between Miss Maudie and Scout, it seems that if Boo Radley was any different than the others in the Radley household he may have been tormented. Miss Maudie says that Mr. Radley was a very strict, religious, man that believed “…anything that’s pleasure is a sin” (Lee 45). Since the people of this time period were generally not very forward thinking, Boo Radley developed into the mysterious character depicted by the children in the novel. Boo’s torment also leads him to become psychologically unstable.
Going further into the development of Boo Radley we can see that, because of his mental disability and the fact that the setting is a poor Alabama town, he is discriminated against. After Boo attacks his father, Mr. Radley decides to lock him away instead of getting Boo the proper help and medicine that he needs to overcome his psychological problem. Boo is harshly locked away in the bottom of the courthouse and the conditions would have been enough to make Boo even more unstable. Boo had to be removed from the courthouse basement because “…[he would’ve died] of mold from the damp” (Lee 11). Boo Radley is punished for actions that were provoked out of him.
Boo Radley’s journey of being tormented to becoming psychologically unstable is a resemblance to the struggle of Blacks in the United States. “To Kill a Mockingbird” was published by Harper Lee in 1960. This year was in the middle of the civil rights movement. The actual setting that the author was in, affected Boo Radley. Boo was tormented and discriminated against just as African Americans had been. He was eventually pushed to fighting back when he saw Scout and Jem being attacked by Bob Ewell. African Americans eventually pushed back and fought for their civil rights.
In this novel Boo Radley is forced to become almost psychotic because of how he is treated through torment and discrimination. His highly religious father has him locked away in a damp basement that could’ve killed him. This occurs because of the time period of the story. Lee includes that Boo is the one to kill Bob Ewell saving Jem and Scout to add a happy ending to the Boo Radley character. Overall, Boo is simply a metaphor for the struggle of Blacks in America, which Harper Lee got inspiration for through the civil rights movement. African Americans went through the same struggles that Boo did and both Blacks and Boo Radley were made to fight back because of the setting that they lived in.