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...
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.
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.
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.