Jeremy Atticus Finch, Jr., or Jem, is growing into an adolescent in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ Jem is brave and curious, has a protective nature, and comes to understand his own sense of morality.
Jem Finch Enlightens Us
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Jeremy Atticus Finch, Jr., who goes by Jem, teaches us about what it means to be human. Jem sees and feels the unfairness that is often present in the world, and we feel it too. Jem learns about bigotry and sees that prejudice can be hurtful. In many ways, Jem becomes our eyes and ears into the cruelty of the world and what you need to learn to be an honorable, principled man in the world today.
Jem and Bravery
As the story opens, we see Jem attempting to be brave. He is curious to a fault about Boo Radley, and his bravery takes the form of running up to the Radley house, touching the side, and running back to where Dill and Scout are waiting.
Scout helps us understand: ‘In all his life, Jem had never declined a dare.’As the story moves forward, Jem’s appreciation for the concept of bravery grows when he watches, awe struck, as Atticus shoots Tim Johnson, a rabid dog. He was sitting with Scout, waiting for the dog to be picked up, lost in thought about what he had seen. He turned to Scout: ”d you see him, Scout? ‘d you see him just standin’ there? . . .
‘n’ all of a sudden he just relaxed all over, an’ it looked like that gun was part of him . . . an’ he did it so quick, like . . . I hafta aim for ten minutes ‘fore I can hit somethin’ .
. .’ He sees bravery in his father, and his admiration for his ability to handle the problem grows by leaps and bounds. He has always looked up to Atticus, but his respect is even larger now.Atticus wants his children to learn about bravery. Jem has to read to Mrs.
Dubose as a punishment for getting angry and destroying her camellias. She is dying, but Jem and Scout worm their way into this cranky old woman’s heart. Atticus makes it clear what he thinks of her courage: ‘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.’
How Jem Is Like His Father
Jem wants to be like Atticus, his father.
He has made it clear he is going to study the law. He admires his father for his actions and his beliefs. He would rather do anything than disappoint Atticus. Like his father, Jem sometimes makes decisions that will not be popular with the crowd. We see his sense of right and wrong.
When Dill runs away from home and ends up in Scout’s bedroom, Jem tells him, ‘You oughta let your mother know where you are.’ He even goes so far as to tell Atticus what is going on, knowing that this will make him unpopular with his friends. Jem believes his decision was the right one.When the lynch mob shows up at the Maycomb jail, Jem needs to go and check on Atticus. Jem refuses to leave when Atticus gets insistent: ‘Jem shook his head.
As Atticus’s fists went to his hips, so did Jem’s, and as they faced each other I could see little resemblance between them: Jem’s soft brown hair and eyes, his oval face and snug-fitting ears were our mother’s, contrasting oddly with Atticus’s graying black hair and square-cut features, but they were somehow alike. Mutual defiance made them alike.’All of Jem’s life he had followed what Atticus wanted him to do, believing that it was right. On this night, there was conflict. What Atticus wanted was something Jem did not feel was the right thing to do. Here, on this occasion, he chose to be honorable rather than obedient, and we realize that Jem is beginning to stand on his own two feet. He is growing into the man he will become.
Jem Shows His Humanity
All through the trial Jem has operated on the belief that the jury cannot possibly convict considering everything they have heard during the trial. His world is rocked when the verdict is handed down: ‘Judge Taylor was polling the jury: ‘Guilty. . .
guilty. . .
guilty. . . guilty. .
.’ I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each ‘guilty’ was a separate stab between them.’Before the verdict, Jem had believed thoroughly and completely that people were good, that his town was made up of good people, and that the justice system was just and would never convict an innocent man. In one fell swoop of the gavel, all of those assumptions and beliefs were swept away. Jem struggled after the trial to come to terms with the outcome. He questioned the world as he knew it: ‘If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other?’ Jem’s faith in humanity has been shaken to its core by the outcome of the trial.
Jeremy Atticus Finch, Jr., who goes by the nickname Jem, shows us the many facets of his character. He is brave and we watch his bravery grow throughout the book, from touching the side of Boo Radley’s house to standing with Atticus when the lynch mob is threatening the jail.
We are witness to the similarities between Jem and his father. Jem is becoming more and more like Atticus each day. He wants to study law, he has a strong sense of right and wrong, and he has a mind of his own. Jem, like Atticus, can stand up for what he believes in without shame or the need to back down. Jem has a strong sense of humanity. He believes that the people in the town of Maycomb are good people, he believes in the justice system, and he believes that innocent people do not get convicted. He has to learn some very harsh lessons, and his sense of humanity is shaken.
This lesson on To Kill a Mockingbird will help you to:
- Analyze Jem’s brave nature
- Discuss how Jem is similar to his father
- Recognize how Jem shows his humanity