Charles Baker “Dill” Harris, the nephew of Miss Rachel, becomes quick friends with Jem and Scout during his first summer in Maycomb. A young outsider of the town, his natural curiosity inspires the Finch children to study and question the world around them in ways that they had not previously considered. The trio’s first target is Boo Radley, and Dill’s unrelenting interest in his mysterious neighbor leads to repeated attempts to catch sight of him. In addition to his inquisitiveness, Dill is also known for his over-the-top imagination, his stories about his experiences clearly unbelievable but entertaining nonetheless. The three kids work together to make up stories, enact scenes, and, eventually, pretend to be Boo Radley. This combination of curiosity and imagination emphasizes a youthful sense of hope and possibility, qualities that contrast significantly with older generations’ unwavering perspectives and, at times, Jem and Scout’s developing maturity.
Dill also has a soft spot for those who are lonely or outcast. He lacks a stable home life as he moves from relative to relative and expresses feeling unwanted by those that find him in their care. He even goes so far as to run away from his home in Meridian and hide under Scout’s bed in order to find love and comfort. This perspective allows Dill to emotionally identify with Scout as she feels that Jem, her ultimate confidant, is moving away from her as they grow up. On a larger scale, however, Dill’s empathy extends to Tom Robinson’s trial as he laments the way in which Mr. Gilmer, the prosecutor, cross-examines Tom. The tears he sheds outside the court reflect his struggle to understand “the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they’re people, too.” Although he will never truly know how Tom feels in this moment, Dill’s background allows him identify with the painful sense of dismissal on display at the trial.