To Kill A Mockingbird - Jem
Is it possible to shed innocence without losing hope? In the book To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a 10-year-old boy named Jem proves that it just may be so. Throughout the novel, Jem, the brother of Scout, is trying to comprehend in his own mind the darker aspects of human nature. Within the small Southern town he lives in, Jem battles with racism, justice, bravery. It is not until the end of the novel does Jem better understand the world, and is one step closer to becoming a grown man.
One of the incidences of the novel in which Jem reacts to racism is with Mrs. Dubose's white azaleas. The white azaleas can be interpreted as representing racism on behalf of the whites, hence the color. Jem attacks the azaleas, hinting that metaphorically, he is in combat against racism. Mrs. Dubose, being racist, is a prime figure of one with a closed mind, in which Jem is also against
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Later on, he starts to become more aware of how people act, and that their views are much different from his own.
Justice, by definition, means fairness. In the case of Tom Robinson, whom Jem's father (Atticus) is defending, fairness is a boon that is not to be granted. Jem is devastated after realizing that justice does not always prevail. After Jem sees Tom be destroyed completely inequitably, he begins to question the ways of humanity.
"...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? Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. I think
I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house
all this time...it's because he wants to stay inside." (227, Jem)
Jem eventually establishes an understanding of people. Jem does not, however, lose hope. He remains steady to the silent promise he made to Atticus, the commitment of justice for all people Jem learns very powerful lessons from Atticus on bravery and cowardice. After Atticus shoots the mad dog, Jem receives a lesson on how guns do not make a man brave, but "when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see through it no matter what" (112-Atticus). Jem is sent to read to Mrs. Dubose after destroying her plants, and observes one kind of true bravery. Mrs. Dubose was battling a morphine addiction, which she quit in order to stay true to herself in not being addicted to anything when she dies. Jem, himself, shows bravery early on in the book, when he refuses to leave his father's side at the jailhouse. In the end, Jem understands the true meaning of bravery.
Are children able to cope with the darker secrets of humankind? Yes, many times, they are. Jem discovers the truth behind prejudice and racism, the harsh but true reality of `all men being created equal', and the veridical sense of bravery. All the while, he manages to never lose faith, and grows both physically and mentally throughout the novel. The experiences made Jem calmer, more realized, and ready to take on the harsh realities of real life.