What exactly is the symbolism of the cemented hole in the tree in To Kill a Mockingbird? This is in chapter 7, where Nathan Radley cements the hole, claiming that the tree is diseased, when clearly it isn't.

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In chapter 7, Boo Radley attempts to communicate with Jem and Scout and develop a friendship with the Finch children by giving them small gifts in the knothole of the oak tree at the edge of his yard. While Jem has suspicions that Boo Radley may be the anonymous gift giver, he is still unsure and the siblings try their best to figure out who has been leaving them gifts. Jem and Scout then decide to write a thank-you note to the anonymous gift giver and place it in the knothole of the tree. After writing the letter, Jem attempts to place it in the knothole only to discover that Nathan Radley has filled it with cement. When Jem asks Nathan why he filled the knothole with cement, Nathan lies to Jem by telling him that the tree is dying and filling it with cement is the proper procedure to treat a diseased tree. The cement in the knothole represents the end of Boo's communication with the children as well as the oppressive tactics of his older brother to prevent him from developing a friendship with Jem and Scout. The cement also symbolically represents the barrier between the outside world and the inside of the Radley home, which is shrouded in mystery.

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In Chapter 7 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout and Jem find many gifts inside the knot-hole of an old tree on the Radley property.  They find sticks of gum, a boy and a girl carved out of soap, and a spelling medal, among other things.  Scout and Jem eagerly look forward to each discovery inside of the knot-hole.  Boo Radley is the one leaving the gifts in the knot-hole.  One day, they go to the tree and discover the knot-hole filled with cement.  They ask Mr. Radley about it, and he tells the children that the tree is dying and that the cement will help it:

"Tree's dying.  You plug 'em with cement when they're sick.  You ought to know that, Jem."

Jem and Scout find this puzzling.  They ask their father about this explanation, and he tells them that the tree looks healthy.  They realize that Mr. Radley had been lying to keep the gifts out of the knot-hole.

When the tree is filled with cement, it symbolizes the end of Boo Radley's attempts to communicate with the children.  He communicates with them through the gifts he leaves for them.  These gifts symbolize the friendship he extends to them.  When the tree is filled in, it symbolizes an obstacle in their friendship.

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I don't believe Harper Lee had any underlying symbolic motives concerning the Radley oak tree in To Kill a Mockingbird. The tree and its knothole simply served as the secret message conduit between the children and Boo Radley. Boo's brother, Nathan, apparently observed either Boo or the children reaching into the knothole, and decided to investigate. He cemented the knothole not because the tree was sick, but in order to keep his brother from having any further contact with Jem and Scout. Jem discovered that Nathan's story about the tree being diseased was a lie when Atticus pointed out that it appeared perfectly healthy. I suppose the act of cementing the knothole--a kind of symbolic heart of the tree--could represent Boo's family's cold-hearted nature in general.

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