English, Period 4
March 7, 2012
Maturing in Maycomb
Author Virginia Woolf once said, “One of the signs of passing youth is the birth of a sense of fellowship with other human beings as we take our place among them”. In the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, six year old Scout and her ten year old brother Jem come across adventures and hardships as they grow up in 1930’s Maycomb, Alabama. When their father, lawyer Atticus Finch, defends an innocent black man against a rape charge in court, Jem and Scout gain a new outlook on society and life. This is a coming of age story about innocence, knowledge, prejudice, growing up, and courage. Throughout this novel, Jem demonstrated and practiced the act of maturity. I believe his growth is what made “To Kill a Mockingbird” a coming of age classic.
As the novel evolves and Jem ages, he doesn’t only grows physically but mentally as well. As a result of his mental growth and coming of age, Jem manifests qualities of becoming more responsible as well as thinking and acting more adult like. Jem proves these qualities when he tells Atticus that Dill ran away from home and was hiding out in Scout’s room. “You oughta let your mother know where you are “said Jem. “You oughta let her know you’re here” Then Jem rose and broke the remaining code of our childhood. He went out of the room and down the hall. “Atticus” his voice was distant …” (159). This quote shows Jem taking responsibility for Dill’s situation and trying to be the voice of reason. ““Jem said he’d take me. Thus began our longest journey together.” (291). This quote displays Jem being responsible, taking his sister to the Halloween pageant and how he starts to become more aware and protective of his sister. Through these quotes, Jem shows that he’s maturing by manifesting the acts of adult responsibility and how he begins to take a more adult role in his sister’s life.
As teenagers, some of us are quick to lose our tempers but Jem takes a big step towards adulthood and develops acts of self-control, tolerance, along with the lesson of being the bigger person. After persistent verbal harassment from Mrs. Dubose, Jem destroys her camellias and has to read to her as a punishment. “So you brought your dirty little sister of yours, did you?” was her greeting. Jem said “My sister’s not dirty and I aint scared of you,” although I noticed his knees shaking (122). This quote exhibits Jem practicing to control his emotions and tolerating Mrs. Dubose. It also shows Jem trying to be the bigger person in this situation. “I don’t know what I would have done, but Jem stopped me.” “...Scout, don’t let Aunty aggravate you.” It seemed only yesterday that he was telling me not to aggravate Aunty.” (256-267). This quote reveals that Jem has learned his lesson of self control and tolerance as he tries to help Scout do the same. From these quotes we see Jem demonstrate acts of tolerance, self-control, being the bigger person, and trying to pass on his knowledge to his little sister.
Jem changed a lot in this novel, his appetite, and so did his opinions. Jem begins to establish adult opinions, learns not to pre-judge, or form opinions based on rumors. After the Tom Robinson trial, Jem sees Maycomb in a new light; he then realizes why Boo Radley stayed in his home. “If there’s just one kind of folks why can’t they get along with each other? Why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all the time…it’s because he want to stay inside” (259). In this quote Jem realizes he was wrong about Boo Radley, that he doesn’t stay in house because he’s weird but because the world is too corrupt and confusing. “… it wasn’t alright for her. She said she meant to break herself of it before she died, and she did.” Jem said, “You mean that’s what her fits were” (127). This quote displays Jem realization when it comes to Mrs. Dubose; he realizes that she wasn’t just a bitter old lady but a courageous fighter. Jem forms and comes to more adult like opinions and conclusions. I also believe he learned to not base opinions on what he hears but to observe first and judge later.
As Jem and Scout went through their hardships in Maycomb, I believe it was not only Atticus but also Jem that helped Scout really grasp what was going on. I believe that Jem’s new found maturity and growth made “To Kill a Mockingbird” a classic coming of age tale. With the lessons of moral education Atticus taught Jem and Scout, I now realize that in short, he was trying to give them “ a sense of fellowship” so when it was time for them to go into the world, they’d be prepared.