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In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, what do each of the gifts Boo Radley left in...

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tlcohenour | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 10, 2012 at 9:01 PM via web

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In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, what do each of the gifts Boo Radley left in the knothole for Jem and Scout represent?  (The gum, the "Indian head" pennies, the twine, the old pocket watch, etc.)

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted July 10, 2012 at 10:47 PM (Answer #1)

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These little gifts are symbolic of a childhood interrupted; when Radley starts leaving the presents, it might seem to some to be creepy, inappropriate, even ominous, especially if one didn't know the backstory.  However, knowing the story of Arthur Radley, it all makes some sense; the gifts aren't expensive or elaborate, indicating that the giver doesn't have access to money, or any way to shop.  Instead, they are things that one might find laying around an abandoned house--which, in some ways, the Radley house was.  Perhaps the most poignant of the gifts Radley left was the little soap figures of Jem and Scout; they were accurately detailed down to the way Jem's hair fell on his forehead.  Clearly, Arthur/Boo has been watching the children closely, perhaps experiencing what he lost vicariously through their experiences.  The day that Jem and Dill roll Scout in a tire to the Radley curb where she crashes in a panic, she remembers that she heard something from inside the house that sounded like laughter.  One might guess that there was never much laughter in the Radley home. 

At the end of the novel, Scout observes:

He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.

What Scout has not recognized is that perhaps she and Jem HAD given Boo/Arthur something important; in some ways, the Finch children had indirectly given him friendship, something to enjoy outside the prison of his parents' home, something to look forward to, someone he could delight with his modest gifts, even a reason to laugh. In some ways, the Finch kids had given Boo Radley a purpose for living, and never more so than when he saved them from Bob Ewell's murderous attack. 

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