What do people think is wrong with the Radleys' pecan tree in To Kill a Mockingbird?  

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Among the many rumors that abound about the Radley family and particularly the reclusive Boo, the pecan tree on their property adjacent to the school is also considered a dangerous temptation to passersby and children. According to local legend, Boo has poisoned the pecans that fall from the tree: They await unsuspecting children who may choose to partake of the free nuts, only to face sickness or even death. Few people take advantage of the fruit from the trees, however, because everyone in Maycomb has already heard the story.

... the nuts lay untouched by the children: Radley pecans would kill you.  (Chapter 1)

Probably because he lives in rural Old Sarum and didn't know better, Walter Cunningham Jr. even claims to have eaten them and survived.

"Almost died first year I come to school and et them pecans.--folks say he pizened 'em and put 'em over on the school side of the fence."  (Chapter 3)

davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The problem is that Boo Radley's become a figure of local legend, a boogie-man about whom people can make up all kinds of crazy stories. No one knows the real Boo, so whatever people say about him, no matter how far-fetched, is likely to be believed. It's the same with the Radleys' pecan tree. Legend has it that Boo's been poisoning it. Eat any pecans from the tree, and you're history. The fact that there's no actual evidence for this fairy story makes no difference whatsoever; once an urban myth takes hold, it can be nigh impossible to break its spell. Even so normally empathetic a person as Jem is affected by the widespread demonization of Boo. He makes Scout spit out some gum she found in the knothole of the Radleys' tree. But as always the only thing that's been poisoned is Boo's reputation and character.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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