How does Jem change throughout the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”?

Updated 21 March, 2023
Jem Finch, the older brother of Scout in "To Kill a Mockingbird," undergoes significant changes throughout the novel. At the beginning of the story, Jem is portrayed as a typical boy who loves to play and is fascinated by ghost stories. However, as the story progresses, he becomes more aware of the injustices and prejudices in his community. He starts to question the norms of society and develops a deeper understanding of empathy and compassion. He becomes more protective of Scout and displays a more mature attitude towards life. The events that he witnesses during the trial of Tom Robinson and the aftermath of the trial are crucial in his character development.
Detailed answer:

Jem Finch's character development in "To Kill a Mockingbird" is central to the novel's overarching themes of morality and growing up. At the beginning of the story, Jem is portrayed as a carefree and imaginative young boy who is fascinated by ghost stories and adventure. As the story progresses, Jem is confronted with the realities of the world around him, particularly the racism and inequality that permeate his community.

One of the most significant changes that Jem undergoes is his shift towards a more mature and empathetic perspective. During the trial of Tom Robinson, Jem is exposed to the blatant racism of the legal system and the town's residents. This experience challenges his understanding of justice and morality and leads him to question the norms of society. As Atticus explains to him, "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what" (Chapter 11).

Jem's growth is also evident in his relationship with Scout. At the beginning of the novel, he views his younger sister as a nuisance and often belittles her. However, as he matures, he becomes more protective of Scout and displays a deeper sense of empathy towards her. For example, after the attack by Bob Ewell, Jem shows great concern for Scout's safety and well-being. He also begins to take on more responsibility in the household, such as trying to protect Atticus from the mob that comes to the jail.

In conclusion, Jem's character development throughout the novel is a testament to the transformative power of experience and empathy. Through his exposure to the injustices and prejudices in his community, Jem develops a deeper understanding of the world and the people in it. He becomes a more mature and responsible young man who is willing to stand up for what he believes in, even if it means going against the norms of society.

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