How do Jem’s responses to the objects left in the tree change in this chapter? What does this suggest about how he feels about the items and the person leaving them?
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The oak tree with the knothole is in the Radley yard, and after Mr. Radley fills it up claiming he is trying to save the obviously healthy tree from dying, it becomes fairly clear that Boo Radley has been leaving the presents for the children. In addition, the offerings are sweet, harmless, and clearly quite thoughtful, demonstrating that despite his lack of social skills, he means well and has a generous and perceptive nature. Boo's gifts also suggest a fondness for children. Having lost much of his childhood after being kept inside his home at all times, perhaps Boo is nostalgic and lives vicariously through watching Scout and Jem play, live, and grow. Mr. Radley, who plugs up the hole, and all the other adults discourage Boo's interaction with the children, but Jem feels great sympathy for the man, reflecting the beginning of his passage from childhood to adulthood. When the conversation with Boo ends, so do childish games, and Jem must mature. Standing alone on the porch, Jem stands on a threshold between indoors and outdoors, between childish freedom and the inside civilized world of adults. In this quiet, reflective, sad moment, we don't know what Jem is thinking, but perhaps he is mourning the last days of his own childhood as much as the unfair imprisonment of his mysteriously detached new friend, Boo Radley.