From To Kill a Mockingbird:

Mr. Radley walked to town at eleven-thirty every morning and came back promptly at twelve, sometimes carrying a brown paper bag that the neighborhood assumed contained the family groceries. I never knew how old Mr. Radley made his living— Jem said he “bought cotton,” a polite term for doing nothing

Was it ever revealed (elsewhere in the book or in the movie, or by Lee herself) what Mr Radley did for a living and what he was carrying in the paper bag?

  • I've unedited the spoiler protection title, as I don't see how any of the information discussed in the question is "spoiler-worthy".
    – fi12
    Jan 26, 2017 at 22:33
  • @fi12 It was because I also wanted to know about the brown paper bag's contents, not for a spoiler.
    – CHEESE
    Jan 26, 2017 at 22:43
  • My mistake. Regardless of what answers you receive however, I don't think there's any canon evidence as to what is in the bag.
    – fi12
    Jan 26, 2017 at 22:44

1 Answer 1


It's not revealed anywhere in any canon sources as to what Mr. Radley's primary occupation was. It's also not addressed anywhere in the novel as to what is in the paper bag, other than the quote you refer in your question, so it probably is groceries. Everyone needs to eat, right?

If you're wondering how Mr. Radley has the funds to keep buying groceries without a job, he probably does it through county welfare money, the same way the Ewells live.

“That makes the Ewells fine folks, then,” said Jem. The tribe of which Burris Ewell and his brethren consisted had lived on the same plot of earth behind the Maycomb dump, and had thrived on county welfare money for three generations.

  • Drunks are known to conceal their bottle of liquor in a brown paper bag as well...
    – Skooba
    Mar 18, 2017 at 14:35

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