A novel in which a character grows is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, by Harper Lee. This novel is about the story of a Southern American family, living in a small county in the 1930’s, from the perspective of a young girl called Scout Finch.
At this specific point in time, racism was at its peak and the Finch family are within a miniscule number of people in Maycomb County who disagree with the constant ridicule of black people who are segregated from white people.
The father of the family, Atticus, becomes the perfect role model for the two children, Jem and Scout, who continue to learn about the world and the ‘’disease’’ of racism which infects everyone at the time.
The book tells the story of how the children develop, but one particular character that grows and changes is Jem whom pursues certain new attributes which change his viewpoint on the world and yield him into a new sense of maturity.
A key scene in the book where we can observe Jem’s new attitude is when Atticus shoots the ‘mad dog’. Before this incident the children believe that their father isn’t good at anything and both of them show no pride towards him. This idea is reinforced when the children are talking about Atticus and complaining about his lack of competing in physical sport due to his elderly age: ‘…challenged the Baptists to a game of touch football.
Everybody in town’s father was playing, it seemed, except Atticus.’’ However, Jem and Scout soon learn that their father isn’t all that they think he is after a ‘’mad dog’’ is spotted in town and Atticus, literally, saves the day, and therefore revives his attribute of manliness in the eyes of the children. Furthermore the children are shocked to discover that Atticus was previously known as ‘’One-shot Atticus’’.
After Atticus puts down the rabid dog the children meet Miss Maudie who teaches them another lesson when Scout wonders why Atticus takes no pride in what he can do. She informs the children that Atticus isn’t a ‘show-off’: ‘’people in their right mind never take pride in their talents.’’ Jem takes this lesson to heart when he almost orders Scout not to tell a soul at school after she says that they must boast about it.
Jem says, ‘’I reckon if he’d wanted us to know it, he’da told us. If he was proud of it, he’da told us.’’ Overall, this shows the readers that Jem now respects Atticus choice to keep his secret quiet and recognises that you don’t always have to put your talents on display for the world, instead of a more childish Jem who would’ve happily joined Scout to show off.
Another climatic scene where we witness Jem’s change from the attitude of a child to that of a more matured person, consists of two scenes: one is the concerning the Radley house where Jem is dared to touch the house and the other is related to Mrs Dubose, who shows him what real courage is. One summer the children become particularly interested in Boo Radley and Jem breaks his personal record by completing a dare which consists of him touching the Radley house which, to the children, was a death sentence.
The only option, is to accept because if he doesn’t it will put his reputation of bravery at risk: ‘’Jem wanted Dill to know once and for all that he wasn’t scared of anything.’’ This shows the readers that Jem thinks bravery is purely about showing physical strength. In the same year Jem ruins Mrs Dubose’s garden because she called Atticus a ‘’nigger lover’’. The punishment is reading to Mrs Dubose for a month.
Jem and Scout go to her house every day, this is when we discover that Mrs Dubose is a morphine addict who has been attempting to rid herself of the addiction and used Jem as a distraction.
When Jem thinks his month of punishment is up he finds out that Mrs Dubose wants him for another week because she knows it’ll take her only a week to die clean, Jem however, is oblivious to this until Atticus tells him after her death: ‘’Mrs Dubose was a morphine addict… She’d have spent the rest of her life on it and died without so much agony.’’ We begin to see that Mrs Dubose is showing a different kind of audaciousness by forcing herself to go clean from morphine before she dies.
Atticus explains to Jem why he was so reluctant to brag about shooting the rabid animal and why bravery isn’t just physical: ‘’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 any and you see it through no matter what.
You rarely win, but sometimes you do.’’ This scene directly contrasts with the Radley house as it shows Jem as different side to bravery and courage, not just the physical element. Jem takes this lesson to heart when the Lynch mob advances on the town jail in search for Tom Robinson.
The Lynch mob scene is a classic for continuing on the theme of Atticus standing up to racism where we finally get to know the new Jem when he shows Atticus that he now knows what true courage is. Prior to the court case the people of Maycomb get frustrated because a white man is defending a black man, when they approach the gates of the county jail where Tom Robinson is being held.
When the children arrive this puts Atticus in a rather difficult situation but when ordered to go home, Jem refuses: ‘’As Atticus’s fists went to his hips, so did Jem’s.’’ We continue to see that Jem is becoming more and more alike Atticus and his maturity at its highest as he creates a stance of determination by Atticus’s side: ‘‘Mutual defiance made them alike.’’
It is clear that Jem has developed a new sense of bravery and courage by reinforcing Atticus and he is also not just protecting himself but the Finch family. This connects with the lesson from Mrs Dubose – ‘’ It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you any and you see it through no matter what.’’ So Atticus and Jem both know that there’s no possibility of winning this particular situation but they still persist and stand against the mob.
In conclusion, the character of Jem Finch develops from having a child’s perspective to obtaining a more mature attitude and personality. From Jem performing a ‘brave’ act by physically showing his ‘courage’ by touching the Radley house, which is seen to be haunted by Boo Radley, to Standing by Atticus’s side throughout the fierce Lynch mob where Mrs Dubose’s lesson didn’t go to waste.
These acts show differences as one is, in Jem’s previous mind-set, proper courage and the other, in is not physical but to the new Jem is now more clearly important.
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