Boo and Tom are handicapped men. Lee hints that he may be physically unhealthy, and she makes statements that lead the reader to believe he may be mentally unstable. However, no character sheds any light on his actual condition, leaving the reader wondering whether Boo's family protects him or further handicaps him. Tom is physically handicapped, like a bird with a broken wing, but his race is probably a bigger "disability" in the Maycomb community. As a result of these handicaps, both men's lives are cut short. Whatever Boo's problems may be, the reader knows that something happened to Boo that has caused him to become a recluse. For all practical purposes, Tom's life ends when a white woman decides to accuse him of rape.
Boo sees Scout and Jem as his children, which is why he parts with things that are precious to him, why he mends Jem's pants and covers Scout with a blanket, and why he ultimately kills for them: "Boo's children needed him." Apparently his family disapproves of his affection for the children or Mr. Radley wouldn't have cemented the knothole. But Boo is undeterred and loves them, even with the probable knowledge that he is the object of their cruel, childish games. Tom also recognizes Mayella as a person in need. On the witness stand, he testifies that he gladly helped her because "'Mr. Ewell didn't seem to help her none, and neither did the chillun.'" Tom helps Mayella at great personal expense.
Both men know their town