What's the symbolism behind every one of Boo's gifts to Jem and Scout?

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leagye eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first gift, gum, is representative of Boo's desire to be kind to the children - perhaps to dispel the mistrust the children feel toward him. What child does not like gum? Keep in mind that Boo was sort of frozen in time - as an older child than Jem and Scout in the story, but nonetheless still a child. Next the Indian head pennies are another symbol of Boo's kindness, desire to connect, as these are something children would be very excited about. The twine? Hmm. Perhaps another symbol of connection that Boo desires with the kids? Much can be read into this idea. The soap carvings, while obvious representations of Jem and Scout, symbolize the strength of Boo's growing fondness/bond with the kids, as well as illustrate that he must be spending a considerable amount of time observing them as they are trying to observe him. Finally, the pocket watch could be seen as a symbol of Boo's arrested life: his development stopped abruptly when his father restricted him to a life within the confines of the Radley house. Also, consider the symbolism of the tree, especially in light of the fact that Nathan Radley (Boo's brother who continues the father's legacy) tells the children that the perfectly healthy tree (in Scout's opinion) is actually dying...Is the tree a symbol of Boo?

mellie728 | Student

In response to the earlier answer, the tree which Nathan, Boo's brother, described as dying could be a symbol for the Radley family tree which was diseased by the cruelty of Boo's father toward Boo.  Also, Boo was considered a "mentally ill" or sick member of their family tree.  Nathan might have been implying that the family tree was sick, an analogy for mental disease in their family tree.  Just a thought.

ksparks101 | Student

personally i believe the pennies are a sort of foreshadowing, hinting that help/luck will be needed later on in life.

And te spelling medal also has its own meaning. As well as showing that he wanted to share his childhood, it also shows the fact that boo indeed had a regular childhood and had more skills than the rumors led ppl. to believe.

nscato04 | Student

Actually, I think all these answers are correct.  Radley tells Jim that the tree is diseased.  Radley views the Family tree as being diseased by the presence of Boo and Boo's alleged mental illness.  Keep in mind, that Radley gave up his already established life, to return home and maintain his father's old routines.  For Radley, Boo is the end of normal life.

However, Atticus, who is undoubtedly the voice of reason in the novel, recognizes that Boo is healthy in mind and body.  Atticus understands that Boo is simply a product of his environment.  Therefore he sees that the tree is healthy, in spite of the knot-hole scar.

The cement, like Boo's imprisonment, is simply a way to cover up the imperfections of the family and the tree.

This upsets Jem, because he begins to understand that Boo is a victim, not the villainous cat-eater of neighborhood legend.

popished | Student

omg.. lea u are wrong!Nathen Radley told Jem that the tree was dying.. but Atticus thought that the tree was healthy. That's why Jem cried. Cause Nathen Radley covered the knot- hole with cement for no reason!

popished | Student


 you forgot to add the whole package of chewing gum that came after the soap carving and also you forgot about the tarnished metal from the spelling bee!!

popished | Student

hello nice answer people!

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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