Why Does Jem Cry At The End Of Chapter 7

In To Kill a Mockingbird, why does Jem cry at the end of chapter 7?

Jem cries at the end of chapter 7 because Nathan Radley has cemented up the hole in the tree in which Boo Radley had been leaving gifts for Jem and Scout. Thanks to the cement, Jem and Scout are unable to leave their thank you letter for Boo, and Jem recognizes that this is the end of something special.

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In chapter seven, Jem and Scout write a note to the anonymous gift-giver who has been leaving small gifts in the knothole of the Radley tree. Although Jem never blatantly states his opinion on the identity of the gift-giver, it is suggested that he believes the person leaving the gifts is Boo Radley. When Jem attempts to place the note inside the knothole, he is shocked to discover that it is filled with cement. The next day, Jem asks Nathan Radley about the cement in the knothole, and Nathan lies to him by claiming the tree is dying, which is why he filled the knothole with cement.

Later that evening, Jem asks his father if the Radley tree looks like it's dying; Atticus tells him the tree looks perfectly healthy. Jem knows Atticus would never lie to him, which confirms his suspicions that Nathan Radley was lying. When Atticus and Scout head inside, Jem remains on the porch and cries to himself.

Jem cries because he recognizes he will never communicate with Boo Radley or develop a lasting friendship with him. He understands that Nathan Radley will continue to prevent Boo from interacting with them and sympathizes with his tragic situation. Jem is maturing and recognizes the reality of Boo's reclusive, lonely life. He knows Boo desires social interaction and wants to develop a friendship with him and Scout but is unable to act independently without his brother's intervention.

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Jem is reduced to tears at the end of chapter 7 due to his discovery that Nathan Radley has cemented up the hole in the tree “down yonder.” When Jem asks him why he did this, he explains that the tree was dying, and that plugging sick trees with cement is standard practice. Doubt, however, is thrown on this explanation later, when Jem asks Atticus if he thinks the tree is dying. Atticus makes the point that the leaves on the tree are “green and full”, which it makes it seem unlikely to Jem that Nathan had told him the truth.

Jem’s tears are not for the tree but for the end of an era that the cement in the tree represents. Now that the hole has been cemented up, there can be no more gifts from the children’s new friend, Boo Radley. Boo has shown kindness to Jem and Scout on a number of occasions, such as sewing up Jem’s pants, which helped him avoid getting into trouble, and leaving various small gifts. It is upsetting to Jem that he and his sister are unable to leave their thank you letter in the tree, as they had planned.

It is clear that this tree, and the children’s growing friendship with Boo, had meant a lot to Jem. The fact that he gives the new cement a “meditative pat” tells us that he is thinking deeply about the tree and everything that it represented. He is crying because he has no power over Nathan’s decision to put a stop to their tentative friendship with Boo.

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He has just discovered that Mr. Nathan Radley filled in the tree with cement, and he is upset at how cruel that was.  Boo had been, for the past several weeks, extending a hand of friendship to the two children by leaving little gifts inside the hole in the tree.  Jem suspected it was Boo, who had, the chapter before, kindly sewed up Jem's pants and left them for him at the fence, which helped Jem to not get into trouble for trespassing on the Radley property.  The gifts that Boo gave were small, but moving; a perfectly whittled figure set of a boy and a girl that looked like them, chewing gum, and a pocket watch.  So, Jem and Scout write a letter of thanks and go to deposit into the tree, only to discover the tree has been filled in.

Jem's crying isn't because he is sad to lose further gifts from the friend.  It is because of the friendship that had been started between the kids and Boo, and Nathan Radley's cruelty in trying to stop it.  And, he outright lied to Jem about it.  He told Jem he filled in the hole because the "tree's dying.  You plug 'em with cement when they're sick."  Atticus confirms later that the tree was not sick, so Jem knows Mr. Radley was not only lying, but cruelly keeping Boo from finding happiness and friendship.  And, just like Atticus, Jem appears to have his father's kind and sympathetic heart; he is upset that Boo has such a cruel father and has to live like that.

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Jem cries because Boo's father, Nathan Radley, had cemented up the hole in the tree. Jem cries not just because there will be no more presents forthcoming but also (and especially) because this cuts off the children's contact with their new "phantom friend," Boo. Mr. Radley had probably observed the Finch children hanging around the tree and figured out what was going on.

The book mentions two other times when Jem cries. Scout heard him crying sometimes for his mother (or either going off by himself to be alone). At the end of the story, Jem cries again when he witnesses Tom Robinson being convicted, knowing good and well that he was an innocent man. Jem feels the injustice of it all and feels betrayed by the people of Maycomb.

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