To Kill A Mockingbird - The Maturing Of Jem Finch Essay

Society is not as innocent to a child as it may appear to be. In fact,
when one really understands the society in which he lives he is no longer a
child. This is much the same case as found in To Kill A Mockingbird, by
Leigh Harper. Although Jem, being a child at the beginning of the novel, is
immature and unaware of the society in which he lives, he matures mentally
to the point where he sees the evil in society and gains a knowledge of

Like most children, at the beginning of To Kill A Mockingbird Jem and
Scout are both young, play together, and have childhood monsters or fears
like other children. Primarily, in To Kill A Mockingbird, Jem is young.

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Scout states their age when it supposedly all starts: “When I was almost
six and Jem was almost ten…” (10). Here Jem is only nine years old and
therefore still a moderately young child; it is assumed he is therefore
immature. Jem also spends his time playing with his five year old sister.

This also occurs very early in the novel: “Early one morning as we were
beginning our day’s play in the back yard, Jem and I heard something next
door in Miss Rachel Haverford’s collard patch.” (11). As the novel
progresses, Jem no longer plays with his sister Scout, but he is doing so
at this point and he would appear to anyone as one child playing with his
sister. Lastly, Jem has childhood fears like most any child does. All
children have their fears or monsters. In Jem’s case it i rthur Radley,
commonly known as Boo:
” Let’s try and make him come out…”
Jem said if he wanted to get himself killed, all he had to do was go up
and knock on the front door…

” It’s just I can’t think of a way to make him come out without him
gettin’ us.”… When he said that I knew he was afraid. (17-18)
Often, during his first summer with Dill, Jem talks of Boo and his
house much like a child discusses a haunted house. Primarily it is assumed
that Jem is a child due to three main points that come across; Jem is
young, plays with his little sister, and has childhood monsters. However,
as the novel progresses so does Jem to the point where he matures mentally
enough to see the evil in the society around him. Jem’s awareness of the
society in which he lives can first be noted when his father accepts the
case of a black man and others begin to talk of him rather rudely:
” Have they been at it?” I (Scout) asked.

” Sort of. She won’t let him alone about Tom Robinson. She almost said
Atticus was disgracing the family. Scout… I’m scared.” (149)
Here Jem gains his first taste of fear from his society in which his
own aunt was getting cross at his father for defending a black man. When
Mr. Robinson is pronounced guilty by a white jury things only heat up for
Jem: “It was Jem’s turn to cry. His face was streaked with angry tears as
we made our way through the cheerful crowd.” (214). Jem grows so angry and
frustrated with the justice system and society in general that he becomes
overwhelmed at this moment and begins to cry bitterly. At this point Jem is
no longer a child and when he takes his frustrations to his father it only
becomes clearer:
“It ain’t right, Atticus,” said Jem.

“No son, it’s not right.” (215)
The fact that Jem becomes aware of the society around him in these
three incidents support the theme that Jem is no longer a child but has
matured mentally to the point where he sees the evil in the society around

Just as Jem in his maturity gains a sense of the society around him, he
also obtains a knowledge of death. The primary death was that of Mrs.

Dubose, the elderly lady down the street:”Did she die free?” asked
Jem. “As the mountain air,” said Atticus…”…I wanted you to see what
real courage is… It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin
but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” (116)
Here Jem and his father Atticus have an emotional talk over the death
of Mrs. Dubose and death itself. She died ready, peacefully, and free of
morphine, of which she was an addict. Jem also learns a wonderful lesson on
true courage at this point in which he is told how true courage is knowing
you’re licked before you start but you persevere anyway. This was the case
for Mrs. Dubose. The second death which occurs that Jem is conscious of in
the novel is that of Tom Robinson: “‘Tom’s dead.'” (238). Tom’s death has a
different effect on Jem. Rather than being a peaceful death, Tom’s was a
violent, uncalled for, and unfair death. Once again Jem sees the dark half
of the society which killed Tom, an innocent man. However, the most
significant brush with death happens to Jem himself when he is attacked by
the vengeful Bob Ewell:
We were nearly to the road when I felt Jem’s hand leave me, felt him
jerk back- wards to the ground. More scuffling, and there came a dull
crunching sound Jem screamed. (265)
Here Jem gains an awareness of his own life, his own mortality. These
three deaths each had a their own individual effect on Jem, but Jem
definitely gained an accomplished knowledge of death. Thus, Jem is a child
at the beginning of To Kill A Mockingbird but does mature, gaining a sense
of the society surrounding him and a knowledge, or a mature awareness, of
death. Jem doesn’t gain these mental developements easily but through much
struggling, and this is exactly what To Kill A Mockingbird is all about; a
struggle with society and learning by placing one’s self in another’s


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