What does the tarnished medal symbolize in "To Kill a Mockingbird"? please help!

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 7, Jem and Scout begin finding numerous small gifts in the knothole of the Radley tree, but they are not aware that Boo Radley is the anonymous gift-giver. The week after the children receive a whole pack of chewing gum, they are given a tarnished spelling bee medal. Atticus explains to the children that spelling bee medals were awarded to elementary spelling champions in the Maycomb County schools before they were born. The tarnished medal symbolizes Boo's personal childhood and is a token of friendship. Jem and Scout probably remind Boo of his childhood, and he wishes to become friends with them, which is why he anonymously gives them gifts in the knothole of his tree. Unfortunately, Boo's brother fills the knothole with cement, which prevents Boo from communicating with Jem and Scout.

katemschultz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jem and Scout find the medal in the knot hole of the tree on the Radley property. They ask Atticus about it, and he explains that it's a medal that was given out by the elementary schools for spelling bee champions.

The reader can assume that it's Boo who is leaving these gifts for the children in the knot hole. These items--the soap dolls, pennies, gum--are thing he has in his possession that he can give to the children; in essence, they are all he has. The selection of the spelling bee medal is interesting. Boo seems to want to communicate to the kids through this; perhaps he is trying to tell him that he hasn't always been a scary recluse--there was a time when he was a good student and popular.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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