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In the early chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird, the children depict Boo Radley as a "haint," a sinister spirit, or even a monstrous creature that remains hidden in the barren Radley house, even when Dill and Jem attempt to peep into the window with a broken shutter. But, when Nathan Radley shatters the night silence with a blast from his shotgun, the malevolence of Boo becomes magnified. So frightened is Jem that he slips out of his pants when they have become entangled in the Radley's wire fence and he must make up an excuse to his father.
That night every sound Scout hears as she lies on a cot on the back porch is magnified, every little rumble of gravel is made by Boo Radley's feet. Every laugh made by passers-by is Boo's; insects hitting the screen are Boo's fingers picking away the wires. She is terrified as she anticipates Jem's return from his attempt in the dark to retrieve his pants from the Radley fence. To his surprise, however, Jem finds that the pants which he caught in the wire fence as he attempted to escape from the Radley's yard, pants that he slipped out of in his terror and left behind, have been neatly stitched for him.
This act of kindness surprises the children. On the following day, Jem and Scout discover gray twine in the knot-hole of the tree by the Radley yard. "This is somebody's hiding place," Scout concludes. She believes that someone such as Walter Cunningham has hidden it and will return for it, but after the twine rests in the hole for three days, Jem pockets it. Then, after the hole has been emptied, the children find other things: two soaps dolls carved in their images, some chewing gum, a spelling bee medal, and an old watch and chain. Each day Jem and Scout eagerly look in the knot-hole, until the day they see that the hole has been filled with cement. The next day Jem asks Mr. Nathan if he has filled the hole; he replies that the tree is sick and needs plugging. But, when Jem asks Atticus if the tree appears to be ill, his father sees no indication of anything wrong. That night Jem stays outdoors longer than usual; when he enters the house, Scout notices where he has wiped away tears.
With the supporting details provided above, here are a couple of statements that can be worked into thesis statements:
- The experience of receiving gifts from Boo in the knot-hole of the tree changes the opinions of the children about him from one of an evil, monstrous creature to that of a sensitive and lonely human being.
- Boo Radley's secret gifts placed into the knot-hole of the old tree indicate his gentle spirit as they display his tenderness and affection for the children, his efforts to communicate with them, and his need for human connections.
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