Why is Jem crying at the end of chapter 7 in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Boo Radley is an important figure in the lives of the children in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.   Jem, Scout, and Dill spend much of the summer time playing games about Boo Radley, the mysterious man who lives next door. The children have never actually seen him. 

The last night of the summer the children decide that they will try to look in the Radley’s window.  Boo’s father hears a noise and shoots his shotgun.  This scares the children, and Jem loses his pants in the barbed wire fence. Later Jem goes back for his pants and discovers that they have been mended and folded neatly waiting for him on the fence.

Scout does not understand the importance of the mended pants.  On the other hand, Jem’s maturity enables him to appreciate this as something that Boo has done to help him.

Another incident connects the children to Boo.  They discover several things left in the old oak tree hole between their properties.  In the hole, there are several interesting and fun items: twine, soap carvings of  Jem and Scout, a medal and a watch.  Again Jem’s sensitivity shines when he understands that someone [Boo] has observed the children in order to carve the images.

Jem decides to write a thank you note to the person who is putting the things in the hole.  When he tries to put it in, Jem discovers that someone has cemented the hole so that nothing can be placed there.  Realizing that Nathan Radley, Boo’s father, has blocked the hole,  Jem bravely asks Mr. Radley if he had cemented the hole. Mr. Radley says “yes,”  but he lies about his reason for doing it.

When Mr. Radley ends the communication between Boo and the children, Jem knows that he did it to hurt Boo.  Mr. Radley did not want Boo to have outside communication.  Jem tells Scout not to cry about the incident indicating his growing concern for his sister. 

After talking to Atticus about the tree, Jem sadly realizes that his friendship with Boo has been ended. 

“Come on in, Jem,” I said.

“After while.”

He stood there until nightfall, and I waited for him.  When we went in the house, I saw he had been crying; his face was dirty in the right places, but I thought it odd that I had not heard him.

Jem was unable to thank Boo for the gifts that he left them in the tree.  The meanness of Nathan Radley angers and yet deeply affects Jem.  He is maturing; however,  on this night,  Jem will be the one who cries for the sad life of Boo.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial