|A Mockingbird Monologue
From the Point of View of Arthur Radley
By Eve Romm
My name is Boo Radley.
Why do you persist in calling me Arthur? Arthur is not my name. Yes, I was christened thus, but Arthur is a man’s name. I am not a man. I gave up my humanity when I ran from the world, so many long, lonely years ago. Atticus Finch will tell you that I became a mockingbird. He is wrong. No mockingbird is afraid to come out and sing in the light of day. A mockingbird does not shrink in fear from the burning rays of the sun and live out its days cowering in lonely darkness! No. I am no mockingbird.
You think I am mad. You are wrong. Why must you think that I am insane? True, I hide myself from the world, and crouch in lowly misery, but I have self-control, just as you do. I am no lunatic.
I did lose control of myself once, once only. Do not ask me what happened, I do not know! Do not accuse me of being violent, dangerous, I am not one to fear! I did not know what it was I did that day. I was cutting newspaper, and my father walked by. I remember nothing except a sudden spurt of warm wet red, bathing me, burning my pale, pale skin to its own lurid colour. I still have the pictures I cut out that day, some of the black and white photographs are sprinkled with red.
True, I am not mad, but I am not like you are either. I refuse to tolerate the prejudice, injustice and pettiness of this world. I come out only at night, to watch Maycomb sleep, for it is then that these people will put aside their hatred, their bitterness, and their fear, and rest. As I see the peaceful faces, I see their dreams as well. Mayella Ewell dreams of Tom Robinson. Mrs. Dubose has nightmares. The children—Jem, Dill, Scout—they sleep dreamlessly, no guilt troubles those young hearts. The Negroes dream of freedom. This is the gift that has come with my inhumanity, the ability to see dreams, but it is oftentimes more a curse than a gift, for dreams are hope, and the hope of the people of Maycomb springs from sadness and despair.
I do not like these words, this language of writing. Letters are so clumsy, so hard to use. Slowly, laboriously, I taught myself to read and write, and to speak, but still these words are so difficult. I try to tell you my story, but these words do not fit. I try. I need them to tell you, to let you understand me if you are able.
Atticus Finch could not understand me. He did not know why a mockingbird would lock itself in its own cage, but the answer was right there in front of him. The bars of a cage keep it’s inhabitant in, but they also keep the world out. It is safe behind bars. The cruelty of the world cannot touch me here. That is why I first retreated into my cage, locking the door behind me, to keep the world out, to create a safe haven for myself. Now, so many dark years later, I wish that I could unlock that door, but the Fates do not unravel their tapestry.
I am not innocent. Darkness cloaks many things. It hides me from the world, but it is also the cloak of evil. I have many seen crimes as I flit from house to house, and never once did I stop to help. I closed my heart off, let cold reason take over, and I did not let myself emerge. I hated myself for it, how I hated myself, but it was necessary, for I must not be seen.
Only once did I let my heart rule my mind, and try as I might I cannot regret it. I heard two children walking, and one set of footsteps following them. I would have continued, had I not seen the girl in her Halloween costume. So innocent and helpless, more a mockingbird than I could ever be. I stopped, and watched, silent, undecided, unable to decide. Bob Ewell ran at the children, his knife shining slightly in the light of the moon. I told myself to move on, but I could not. How could I leave these two children to die for their father’s good heart, for his dream of equality? I was not strong enough to leave, I ran to help.
For a split second I looked into the eyes of Bob Ewell, dark with alcohol and hate, and the next second he lay face down on the ground, soaked in his own blood. I did not pause to think. I caught my breath, leaning against the rough bark of an ancient tree, my thin frame racked with hacking, sobbing coughs. I picked up the boy, his broken arm bent the wrong way and swinging like an erratic pendulum, and began to carry him toward his house. My arms began to burn from his weight, for it had been many long years since I had the need for physical strength, but I did not allow them to give in.
I brought the boy inside, and gave him to his father.
I remember only two things about the Finch house. The first was the light. It was torture, burning my eyes. So bright. And I remember the girl whose life I had saved. She took my hand, speaking to me, led me back into the soothing darkness. I did not speak.
I was, at first, unwilling to break my silence. I wrote this, in my slanting, illegible handwriting, on blank pages torn from books, on wallpaper I had long since peeled from the walls, anything I could find. I did not think that I would ever read it aloud. I would have put it in the knothole for the children, but it was filled with cement, it had been since my brother read the note the children left for me. So I hid it away, underneath my blood-spattered newspaper clippings, another memento of shame and fear and darkness.
Now I am reading it to you, to the children of Maycomb, so many years later. I am old now, old and dying. My days grow fewer, and someone must know my story. I have entrusted it to you. It is yours now, every word of it, every pain-filled moment, every endless lonely day. Cherish it, forget it, disregard it, do with it what you will, but remember this.
I am Boo Radley, I said, not Arthur.
Because Boo is no name for a man.
Boo is my name.