Boo Radley’s One and Only Line
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Boo Radley. Did he really stab his dad with scissors years ago? How many cats has he eaten under the porch? Above all, will he ever come out of that house? By the end of To Kill a Mockingbird, he becomes so much more than a game of make believe. He becomes a hero.
Lately, I’ve taken to writing poems in honor of famous literary characters. A mystery like Boo deserves a little bit of poetic secrecy, doesn’t he? That’s why I think the acrostic form is perfect.
You may have written an acrostic in school, in which the first letter of each line or word spells out your name when read from top to bottom. It’s a fun exercise, but there is so much more potential to the acrostic’s unique method of communication.
Remember how Boo finds indirect ways to connect with the kids, like leaving them little gifts in the knot hole of a tree? The acrostic communicates with a similar “secret message,” saying something without speaking it aloud. In my case, I decided to let Boo’s one and only spoken line in the book not only create the lines and stanzas of the poem, but the themes.
Boo Radley, After
While the rest of Maycomb jabbers on, Scout,
I’ll just stay in and carve
Lumps of soap from your story:
Lye gardenias, chifforobes, hams—
You’re never short on truth
Or adventure, but by now you
Understand that my closed door is my voice.
To love, I hide inside another’s heart
And take scissors (ha ha) to the rest.
Knot holes can only hold so much.
Ewells of the world don’t know
Mockingbirds from mad dogs, but young lady,
Every day you go out there, the town
Hurts a little less while you
Open their eyes a little more.
Meanwhile, I’ll nest here and keep an
Eye on your life. Chirp my silent song.
Want to try your own Mockingbird acrostic? We’d love to learn about your own favorite line, phrase, or symbol from the book in the form of an acrostic. Then just drop your poem in the comment box below.
Photo by Paulius Malinovskis, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by Tania Runyan.
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—Nathaniel L. Hansen; Assistant Professor of English & Creative Writing, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor; Director, Windhover Writers’ Festival