What does Scout find in the knothole of the tree in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird?

Quick Answer

Over the course of the novel, Jem and Scout discover several items hidden in the knothole of the tree. In total, they find a couple of sticks of gum, a small box containing coins, a ball of twine, two figures carved from soap, an entire pack of gum, a spelling medal, and a pocket-watch. Eventually, they realize that Boo Radley is the one leaving these "gifts" and they are extremely upset when Nathan Radley plugs the knothole with cement.

Expert Answers
durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To Kill A Mockingbird exposes racial prejudice and stereotypical behavior as the residents of Maycomb County make countless assumptions and share vicious gossip which prevent some people, such as Tom Robinson and Boo Radley, from being treated equally and fairly. Atticus has always brought his children up to believe in the rights of others, even when others make bad decisions. He maintains that, unless  "you climb into his skin," (you) a person can have no concept of what causes others to make decisions or pass judgment themselves.

Boo Radley is a character in the novel who is much maligned and suffers because of the tales that surround him, to the point that he has been in his house for many, many years. There is apparently even a "malevolent phantom," the cause of many crimes and strange occurrences, which emanates from the Radley house. And, if the children ever knock a ball into the garden, the ball is never retrieved but is simply "lost." The children are intrigued by Boo and, prompted by Dill, they consider ways to encourage Boo to come out of the house. 

One day, whilst running home from school, Scout spots a piece of tin-foil sticking out of the knot-hole in a tree in the Radley garden. Despite her fear, she takes it and discovers that it contains two pieces of gum which she examines when she gets them home, half expecting to die after having licking one of them. On the last day of school, Scout points out another piece of tinfoil to Jem  and he takes it. This time, it is a small box, "purple velvet," and it contains coins, pennies called "Indian-heads."  

After finding a ball of twine in the knot-hole which they leave there for a few days in case it belongs to someone, the children conclude that, actually, these things are for them. The next things they find there are two small carved soap figures, a boy and a girl. A few weeks later, there was a whole pack of chewing gum and no such worries about being poisoned as the children devoured the pieces. Next, there was a medal, a spelling medal from many years before and then their greatest find, a pocket-watch

Unfortunately, the children will not be able to find any more treasures as, when they return to put a thank you note in the hole, they discover it has been filled with cement. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout and Jem find chewing gum, grey twine, girl and boy dolls carved out of soap, a medal, a watch and pennies.

The children in the neighborhood of Maycomb are afraid of the Radley House, because they fear that Boo Radley is some kind of monster and the house’s trees are poisoned.

Scout is walking home one day when she notices “tinfoil was sticking in a knot-hole just above my eye level, winking at me in the afternoon sun” (ch 4).  She takes it home and tries it, but Jem is annoyed because he says that she could get killed from even touching the tree.

At first, the children try to determine who the gum belongs to, and then they find two pennies that they think are valuable.

One day, they find “a ball of gray twine” (ch 7) and on another day, “two small images carved in soap” (ch 7).

One was the figure of a boy, the other wore a crude dress. (ch 7)

Next the children find “a tarnished medal” and then the best prize of all, “a pocket watch that wouldn't run, on a chain with an aluminum knife” (ch 7).

The children think the tree is someone’s hiding place, and then decide the gifts are for them.   They even leave a note thanking the person giving the gifts.  They do not realize it is Boo Radley.  When Nathan Radley finds the note, he cements up the hole.

The gifts Boo Radley leaves for the children are the foundation of his friendship with them, even though they don’t know who is leaving the gifts at first.  Nathan’s cementing of the hole shows that he does not want Boo reaching out to them.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 4 of To Kill a Mockingbird we learn that Scout walks by the Radley residence every day after school.  During one of her walks, she finds something in the hole of an oak tree. It is a tinfoil stuck to a knothole and, upon looking further down, she finds two pieces of chewing gum. These were fresh pieces, granted. Scout investigated the pieces as best as she could by observing, smelling and finally chewing one piece. Jem thought Scout was crazy for doing that and made her spit it out. 

After this first gift there was another one, later on in the school year, placed in the same knothole. This one was tinfoil and a jewelry box that held two indian-head pennies inside. These were well-polished pieces and they are a symbol of good luck. These were ways for Boo to try and reach out to the children in the only way he knew how. 

An important thing to note is that the supposedly "diseased" tree is an allusion to the Radley family. A family stricken by mental illness, they are basically just like a diseased tree that cannot branch out. The Radley legacy is cut short not just by mental illness, but by the collateral effects of being labeled by a judgmental society who, at the time, could not have understood what the Radleys were going through.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout finds gum in the Radley tree knot-hole.

Walking by the Radley House, Scout notices some tinfoil “winking at [her] in the afternoon sun”. Even though she is in the scary, forbidding Radley yard, she is tempted.

I stood on tiptoe, hastily looked around once more, reached into the hole, and withdrew two pieces of chewing gum minus their outer wrappers. (ch 4)

Scout is afraid to put the gum in her mouth, even though it’s her first reaction.  She does so anyway, and when she doesn’t die she enjoys the gum.

When Jem finds out, he is horrified and tells her to spit it out right away.  She tells him she hasn’t died yet, but agrees to spit out the gum and gargle before he tells Calpurnia.

The gum is Boo Radley’s first attempt to reach out to the children in a gesture of simple friendship.  As they find more and more gifts in the tree, including pennies, twine, a watch, and soap carvings, they get closer to Boo.  When Nathan Radley cements the hole, they are angry and sad at the loss of connection to Boo, understanding that this forces him further into isolation.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

    Scout is the first of the Finch children to discover the special treasures to be found in the knothole in the tree at the edge of the Radley property in Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Since Scout got out of school 30 minutes before Jem, she returned home alone, and she always "ran by the Radley Place as fast as I could." But one day, "something caught my eye," and, summoning up her courage she returned to look more closely at a live oak at the Radleys.

Some tinfoil was sticking in a knot-hole just above my eye level, winking at me in the afternoon sun. I stood on tiptoe... reached into the hole and withdrew two pieces of chewing gum minus their outer wrappers.

After licking it and waiting a while, "I did not die (and) I crammed it into my mouth: Wrigley's Double-Mint." Jem later scolded her for sampling an item of such unknown origins, and she spat it out. But it was just the first of the gifts to be found in the wonderful, secret knot-hole.


readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The above answers give literal points. However, if we read the novel on a deeper level, we can say that Scout and Jem found much more than items in the knot-hole of a tree. They found a what they were looking for, namely Boo Radley, and more importantly, they found a friend. 

The first part of the novel is about Jem, Scout, and Dill and how they wanted to get Boo out of his house. They heard many stories about him and they were interested to say the least. What they did not know was that Boo was watching them. Moreover, as much as they tried to learn about him, he was the one reaching out to them. 

Second, Boo, in his way, was extending friendship to Scout and Jem. This would be very significant at the end of the novel, because the one who saved them from death (as Bob Ewell attacked them) was Boo. So, what started as a few gifts in the knot-hole of a tree ended up in Boo's life-saving protection. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I edited your question down to one question.  Feel free to post the rest later!  

Scout and Jem find gifts from Boo Radley in the tree.  At first, Scout is worried about eating the gum she finds.  Later, the kids find an old watch.

Our biggest prize appeared four days later. It was a pocket watch that wouldn't run, on a chain with an aluminum knife. (ch 7)

They also find a penny.  However, I think the best prize was the little dolls carved out of soap, because it shows that Boo really cared about them.

The gifts make the children think about Boo differently.  He becomes less a scary monster and more a friend.  It is a sign that you should think about people differently, and not make snap judgments.  Sadly, Boo’s brother Nathan fills the hole with cement, to keep Boo away from the kids.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

On the most literal level, Jem and Scout find: chewing gum, twine, girl and boy figures carved out of soap, a medal, a watch, and pennies. 

On a more figurative level, they find so much more. At first things are mysterious. Jem and Scout do not know whose these items are. They do not know if they are presents for them or a secret hiding spot of other children. Therefore, they do not know what to do.

After a while, they just take these items and assume someone left them as gifts. Unbeknownst to them, Boo Radley left these items for them. This begs the question - why would Boo do such a thing, especially as he is a recluse? 

As the story progresses, it turns out that Boo is a good man. He is doing these things to befriend Jem and Scout. From this perspective, what they find in the tree is more than a few things; they find a friend who will help them and protect them. 

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This first item Scout finds in the knothole of the Radley oak tree is two sticks of Wrigley's Double Mint chewing gum. Later on, Scout and Jem find two Indian-head pennies. The children also find a ball of twine, two carved soap figurines, and a whole pack of chewing gum. Scout and Jem then find a medal from an old spelling bee and a pocket watch. Although the children do not know who has been leaving them gifts in the knothole of the tree, Jem has a suspicion that it could possibly be Boo Radley. Jem and Scout then write a thank you note to put into the tree, but when Jem goes to place the letter into the knothole, he finds out that Nathan Radley filled it in with cement. At the end of the novel, Scout realizes that Boo Radley was the anonymous gift giver.

jrinkel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 4 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem and Scout begin finding objects left for them to discover inside a knot-hole of an oak tree at the Radley's. The first object Scout discovered was a piece of Wrigley's Double-Mint gum. The second object they find is a box with two polished Indian-head pennies. The third object was two small images carved out of soap that looked like Jem and Scout. The most valuable item Jem and Scout found was a pocket watch on a chain and aluminum knife. Soon after finding the pocket watch, Mr. Nathan Radley filled the knot-hole with cement.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout finds the first gifts from Boo Radley in Chapter 4 of To Kill a Mockingbird when she discovers some shiny tin foil in the hollow knot of the oak tree. It turns out to be two pieces of Wrigley's Double Mint gum. Jem makes the next discovery, coming up with a purple velvet box "that wedding rings came in." Inside were two polished Indian-head pennies. Next came some carved soap miniatures that resembled Jem and Scout. Then, "the knothole yielded a tarnished medal" from a previous Maycomb spelling bee; finally came "a pocket watch that wouldn't run, on a chain with an aluminum knife."

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't know which things you mean that they have found -- why you are asking what else they found.

The first thing that is found is the sticks of chewing gum that Scout finds in Chapter 4.  Next, Jem finds a box with a couple of pennies inside (still in Chapter 4.)  In Chapter 7, they find a lot of things.  For example, they find some more chewing gum.  Most impressively, they find a couple of really nicely made dolls.  The dolls are clearly meant to look like Jem and Scout -- they have the same kinds of clothes and the same hairstyles as the kids.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The list I have includes a piece of twine, gum, a spelling bee medal, two indian headed pennies (1906 and 1900), and two soap dolls that look like Jem and Scout. The pennies came in a ring box covered with gum wrappers and it had a minute catch.

For the longest time, the kids thought this place was some bus child's hiding spot. However, after a while it seemed these were gifts intended for then until Nathan Radley filled the hole with cement. We are never actually told Boo put these items in the knothole, but are led to believe he must be the one offering the gifts.

lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout finds the first gift, a stick of gum, which she helps herself to; later she will tell Jem that she found it in the tree.  Next, two Indian head pennies appear, followed by a ball of twine, two hand carved figures that look like Jem and Scout, a medal, and finally a pocket-watch and a pocket knife.  Obviously, Boo is enjoying watching the children, and they're enjoying the mystery of receiving these gifts.  However, in what appears to be a move done out of cruelty, Mr. Radley has the hole filled with cement, thus putting an end to the "anonymous" gifts. 

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The kids find childish treasures in the tree. The most interesting item, to me, is a carving made in the likenesses of Jem and Scout. These little pieces show us that 1) the person leaving the items in the tree knows who Jem and Scout are, 2) wants the kids to take the treasures, and 3) that Jem and Scout are not very aware of who they are dealing with. 

They should know that an adult is giving them these items and probably that it is Boo Radley, yet they fail to make the connection (at least out loud/consciously).

brandih eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One day Scout finds gum in the tree near the Radley home. On the last day of school the two children walk home together. They find a package covered with foil and containing two scrubbed, Indian-head pennies in the tree near the Radley Place.

meowmix eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first gift was couple of pieces of gum that was found by Scout first. Then it was a ball of twine, soap figures, a pack of gum, a medal, and a broken pocket watch with a knife attached to it.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question has been asked and answered many times here on eNotes.  Here is a comprehensive link for you:  http://www.enotes.com/to-kill-a-mockingbird/q-and-a/tags/tree

lalaland5 | Student

They find sticks of gum, 2 indian head pennies, a pocket watch, 2 soap carved dolls, twine, and a spelling bee medal.

gogryphons | Student

there was also the indian head coins!

damini | Student

The First time Scout and Jem found a chewing gum the second time they found a watch, the third time they found 2 dolls

spamanda11 | Student

Scout finds a few things inside the knothole of the tree. She discovers chewing gum, gray twine/string, girl and boy dolls carved out of soap, a medal, a watch, and pennies. 


The story somewhat implies that the doll characters are supposed to be Scout and Jem. This adds a sense of suspense and mystery/ creepiness to this scene. It makes the children think about of they are being watched.

user9164311 | Student

Scout finds chewing gum, a rusty medal, 2 Indian head coins, a watch and chain, and soap dolls of her and Jem.

davis-13 | Student

Scout and Jem find gum, two Indian head pennies, and dolls that look like them.

rawryooyesithink | Student

1st A gray ball of twine (Pg.78)

2nd 2 small images carved in soap. I was a figure of a boy and one with a dress (Pg.80)

3rd A pack of gum

4th A tarnished medal (Pg.81)

5th A pocket watch that didn’t run with a knife attached to it (Pg.81)


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