The Quality of People

In 300 words, write about the motif of “the quality of people” in regards to Boo Radley. How does the Radley family fit into the different arguments presented in the book? Consider both Atticus’s definition of “trash” and Aunt Alexandra’s.


The motif of “the quality of people” in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is exemplified through the character of Boo Radley, a mysterious recluse who becomes the subject of fascination and speculation in the small town of Maycomb. Through the perspectives of various characters, the novel explores different definitions of what it means to be a “good” or “bad” person, and how these judgments can be influenced by social status, race, and personal biases.

Atticus Finch, the moral compass of the novel, presents a nuanced view of the quality of people that goes beyond surface-level appearances. When he speaks of “trash,” he is not referring to a person’s social class or background, but rather to their moral character. He believes that people should be judged based on their actions and intentions, rather than on external factors such as race or family history. Atticus’s approach is exemplified in his interactions with Boo Radley, whom he treats with respect and kindness despite the rumors and prejudices that surround him.

On the other hand, Aunt Alexandra represents a more rigid and narrow-minded definition of the quality of people. She is obsessed with the idea of family heritage and believes that certain families are inherently “better” than others. According to her worldview, the Radley family is a source of shame and embarrassment, and their association with the Finches is a cause for concern. Alexandra is unable to see past the Radleys’ social isolation and eccentric behavior to recognize their inherent worth as human beings.

In the end, the novel suggests that the quality of people cannot be reduced to a single factor or trait. Boo Radley, despite his reputation as a “monster,” is ultimately revealed to be a gentle and kind-hearted person who saves Scout and Jem from harm. The Radley family, despite their reclusive lifestyle, are shown to have their own unique strengths and vulnerabilities. Through these characters, “To Kill a Mockingbird” encourages readers to look beyond superficial appearances and preconceived notions to recognize the complexity and diversity of the human experience.

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