Atticus always taught his children that people had good and evil moments with the good usually winning. He modeled this trait by defending Tom Robinson in a controversial case involving rape and racism. He took Tom Robinson‘s case to set a good example for Jem and Scout. Atticus taught them to respect others no matter the skin color. It was this mindset that would change the children’s initial view of two controversial characters Mrs. Dubose and Boo Radley. Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose was a sick elderly lady who exhibited both good and evil to the young characters. When Jem and Scout walked by her house she yelled at them, criticized them, and talked badly about their father Atticus who was defending the Tom Robinson case. She did not approve of their father defending him because of her racist views. Jem and Scout felt she was an evil person because of her harsh and racist comments about their father of whom they adored. Her cruel words caused Jem to become furious, so he smashed her camellia bushes. Mrs. Dubose punishes Jem by making him read aloud to her daily for one month. At first, Mrs. Dubose would fuss at him for misreading or skipping words. After a while, she would stop. Jem and Scout described her as having a “fit.” (Lee 142 & 143) During her fits she would stop talking and stare at the ceiling almost like she was paralyzed.
A month after Jem completed his punishment, he found out that she had passed away. Atticus said, “She said she was going to leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody.” (Lee 148) He then told Jem that Mrs. Dubose was addicted to morphine for many years and had promised herself she would not be addicted when she died. Her fits were actually withdrawals from the lack of the drugs in her body. Jem realized he helped her by reading to her. Even though taking the medicine would have caused her less pain she courageously decided to break the addiction herself. After her death, Mrs. Dubose left Jem a candy box containing a single white camellia flower to show Jem she had forgiven him for destroying her flowers. Her act of forgiveness shocked the children. In fact, Jem threw the box in the fire and described it as curse. Scout later observed Jem admiring the white camellia as if he had made peace with Mrs. Dubose who had obviously made peace with him.
Arthur “Boo” Radley was a misunderstood character who was brave and had the qualities of both good and evil. While they had never seen Arthur, Jem and Scout called him “Boo” because they thought he was a monster. In their minds he was not real so, they made up scary stories about him based on the rumors they had heard about him, mostly from the town gossip, Stephanie Crawford. According to the rumors, young Boo and his friends were full of gang type mischief. They recklessly drove a car backwards in town, locked a town member in an outhouse, and resisted arrest. As a result, Boo was arrested for disorderly conduct, and the charges would have put him in a “state industrial school.” (Lee 12 & 13) However, his father, Mr. Radley, appeared before the judge believing such a sentence was a disgrace for his “high strung” boy. (Lee 14) Mr. Radley gave his solemn word that “Arthur would give no further trouble.” (Lee 13) Therefore, Boo’s home became his prison for nearly fifteen years as Mr. Radley refused to let him ever come out of the house. Boo’s anger and resentment built up to a point that caused him to stab his father’s leg with a pair of scissors. This evil act landed Boo in the courthouse basement. His solitary, gentle demeanor was overlooked because of this outburst of violence. Horrifying rumors were always swirling about him even after his release from the courthouse basement. All of these monstrous rumors convinced Jem and Scout that Boo Radley was evil until they realized that the information was misleading and incorrect. The children began to see and experience that Boo was not an evil, horrible person, but instead he actually had a good heart.
Boo showed his good heart in subtle ways. The children would find random gifts placed in the hole of a tree. They looked forward to finding these little surprises until his brother, Nathan Radley, filled in the hole with cement. Another example of his softer side was heard when Scout crawled into an old tire and was rolled down the street. The tire rolled right into the Radley’s front porch. She heard “someone inside of the house laughing.” (Lee 54) It was Boo. He was watching them out the window, and she never told Jem about hearing him laugh. Scout starts to realize that he is not a bad person after all. The strongest act of kindness toward Jem and Scout was shown when Boo saved their lives when walking home from a Halloween pageant.
Bob Ewell hated their father Atticus because he defended Tom Robinson who was accused of raping his daughter. As they walked along the path from the pageant, Jem and Scout heard someone walking behind them. The footsteps came closer and closer, setting up a defensive fear in the children’s minds. Bob attacked them from behind, and in the scuffle between Jem and the attacker, Scout heard a loud snap before she was attacked. The snap was where Bob had broken Jem’s arm, knocking him unconscious. It was in the midst of her struggle that Scout saw someone different from their attacker who pulled him off of her. In the dead silence, Scout then saw a man carrying Jem in his arms to their house. It was this brave man who saved them. It was a “countryman she did not know.” (Lee 356) All she could see was a kind, strong man carrying her limp brother home, but she did not know who he was. In her mind he was their savior. It was not until the end of their frightful night that Boo was recognized by the innocent Scout as being their hero.
Not everyone is what they seem. Some people are thought to be evil because of rumors, skin color, sickness, beliefs, and past events. Mrs. Dubose and Boo Radley are culprits and victims of such evil. However, both displayed their good qualities through the innocence of Jem and Scout by showing forgiveness and protection. At the end of the day, the children realize good can come from those who are perceived as evil.