To Kill a Mockingbird

In the 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, what's the first name of Boo Radley?

And the answer: Arthur.    

Photo credit: Encyclopedia Brittanica. 

In the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee, Arthur "Boo" Radley is a neighborhood recluse whose mere name scares local children. However, in one pivotal scene, he saves the day.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a great work of American fiction. Interestingly, the novel is Harper Lee's only published work – its wild success is said to have deterred the largely introverted writer from embarking on a new project. Yet, Mockingbird continues to occupy a place of relevance in the American cultural zeitgeist. Taking place in Alabama in the mid-1930s, its themes regarding race and justice remain pertinent reminders of the power of narrative. In a 1962 interview, Lee claimed:

"My book had a universal theme. It’s not a ‘racial’ novel. It portrays an aspect of civilization, not necessarily Southern civilization.”

The aspect of civilization portrayed in Mockingbird was also largely drawn from her own life. One of the primary characters, Atticus Finch, was drawn from her father, a lawyer who historically defended two African-American men on trial for murder. The setting of the novel, Maycomb, was also heavily inspired by her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.

When it came down to publishing, Lee faced nearly ubiquitous rejection. All 10 publishers that received the manuscript turned it down – that is, until Lippincott begrudgingly signed on. Apparently, at that point the novel still needed a good amount of reworking, and Lee faced a long editing period until the novel's release in 1960. Since its release, though, To Kill a Mockingbird continues to be one of the most widely read, great American texts.

Learn more about the plot and context of the book below.


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