Harper Lee’s book “To Kill a Mocking Bird” is famous in the American literature for its humor and warmth in communicating serious issues of racial inequalities and rape. The story is told during the Great Depression with the main protagonist Scout Finch living with her older brother Jeremy Jem Finch, their father Atticus Finch, and their black cook, Calpurnia. Scout is intelligent and she has firm faith on their community’s goodness; this faith is hugely tested during the trial of Tom Robinson.
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On the other hand, Jem is an example of the common and typical American child who does not back down on any challenge. Jem feels too old for his sister to bother him and this change of attitude dismays the young scout. Focusing on chapters 13 through to chapter 18, this paper will analyze Jem’s character, his growing maturity, as well as his growing awareness on matters of prejudice.
In the course of chapters 13 to 18, Jem significantly grows from a child to a playful child to a composed, calm, and mature person just like his father. In these chapters, Jem’s growing maturity is evident; at the beginning he used to be a constant playmate of Scout’s but after realizing that he is four years older than Scout, he separates himself from her usual games.
These changes in Jem are explained by their cook as he claims that “Jem does not want Scout pestering him” (Lee, 2010). As a result, Calpurnia starts referring to Jem as “Mister Jem” a title that is only used to refer to adults.
All the same, Jem’s maturity is shown by his maintenance of a close relationship with his sister. He remains his sister’s close companion and offers her protection throughout the rest of the story. According to Lee, Jem develops “a maddening air of wisdom” as described by his sister Scout; these changes annoy Scout but the adults around them do understand Jem (2010).
As the story progresses, Jem enters the adolescence stage where his ideals are put into trial and shaken especially during the Tom Robinson trial.
During the trial, Jem perceives the legal system as unjust and his entrance to adolescence makes the situation more complicated and also traumatic. During this point in his life, Jem becomes disillusioned after realizing that justice hardly prevails. Although the injustice leaves Jem confused and quite vulnerable, he still believes in the commitment towards justice as instilled to him by Atticus.
After the case, Jem concludes that “there are four kinds of folks in the world, the ordinary kind like us, the kinds like the Cunningham, the kinds like the Ewell, and the Negroes” (Lee, 2010). This assumption portrays Jem as a wise mature person who understands the community well. Making such an observation shows that Jem is wise and has the knowledge to understand the ideas of racism in the community.
At this point in life, Jem possesses moral courage rather than the childish courage he once had such that he could never back down on any dare. As Jem matures, he becomes more aware of the feelings of the other people around him. At the beginning, Jem used to ridicule Boo Radley but when he loses his prejudice against him and starts appreciate him.
To thank Boo Radley, Jem insists “give Boo Radley a note.” Jem sympathizes with Radley especially after their communication with him are cut; Jem tells his dad that Boo Radley “ain’t ever harmed us, he ain’t ever hurt us (Lee, 2010).
In conclusion, chapters 13 to 18 illustrate how Jem develops from a playful boy to a mature person who overcomes many obstacles in life. These obstacles make Jem stronger and prepare him better to face serious issues pertaining justice in the society. From his experiences, Jem has a changed perspective and view of the society portraying his maturity and awareness of prejudice.
Lee, Harper. (2010). To Kill A Mocking Bird. USA: HarperCollins.