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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Why are objects left in the tree in chapter 4 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Boo Radley leaves several gifts for Scout and Jem in the hole in the tree. There they find two pieces of Doublemint chewing gum, two Indian head pennies, and a rusty medal. Boo also gives them soap dolls carved to look like them as well as a broken watch and watch chain.

All these gifts are the reclusive Boo's way of reaching out to the children. The gifts show he knows they are watching and curious about him. He can obviously overhear some of what they say too. For instance, he must hear them discussing whether or not the gifts are for them or possessions belonging to somebody else stashed in the tree. In response, he carves the soap dolls to look like them so they know the presents are theirs. He must know, too, that the children are thrilled to get these gifts, as he keeps on giving them.

The children, however, already have preconceived notions of Boo as the bogeyman, so it is not natural for them to connect the gifts with him.

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At first, Jem and Scout aren't really sure why the objects have been left in the tree, or who could have left them. After Scout finds the gum, it is Jem who discovers the new items: a pair of "scrubbed and polished" Indian Head pennies. They realize the objects probably don't belong to grown-ups, since "Grown folks don't have hidin' places." They decide that they must belong to a child who had placed them there before taking the bus to school. But until they discover to whom the items belong, it's "finders keepers." At this point, the children apparently do not believe that the gifts could possibly come from Boo, and the children soon become busy with a new form of entertainment: Their own imaginative play-acting version of the Radley family, known as the Radley Game.

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