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How does the character of Jem progress and mature throughout the first part of the...

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cupcakegirl123 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted February 23, 2013 at 9:36 AM via web

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How does the character of Jem progress and mature throughout the first part of the novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 25, 2013 at 7:17 PM (Answer #1)

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Like any growing boy, Jem undergoes many changes during the first part of the novel. Jem is only nine when Dill first arrives in town; he is 12 years old at the beginning of Part Two and feeling the growing rush of puberty. His infatuation with Boo Radley has finally subsided: He no longer accepts Miss Stephanie Crawford's gossip as fact, and his limited contact with Boo has led to the realization that Boo is not a monster but, instead, a timid, nocturnal neighbor and would-be friend. Jem is promoted to the adult Christmas table at Finch's Landing, infuriating Scout but building Jem's confidence about his impending adulthood. He dupes Atticus (or does he?) on the night Nathan Radley resorts to gunplay, scattering the children from his collards patch with a blast from his shotgun. Dill's quick thinking explains Jem's lack of pants, but Jem knows that in order to maintain their story, he must produce the lost pants to Atticus's satisfaction the next morning. Jem's return to the Radley collards patch seems like a suicide mission to Scout, but Jem values the trust Atticus places in him.

"... it's like this, Scout... Atticus ain't ever whipped me since I can remember. I wanta keep it that way."  (Chapter 6)

Jem's relationship with Mrs. Dubose provides him with an array of emotional responses. At first, his hatred for the old lady is overwhelming, but he soon comes to pity and even respect her a bit. It is only after her death--probably the only person Jem has known to die since his mother--that he learns of her drug addiction and his father's deep affection for her. Anger and tears of confusion follow, but Scout soon notices that a "change in Jem had come about in a matter of weeks." He would soon be called "Mister Jem," Cal reminds Scout, who believes that the situation could be remedied if only somebody "beat him up, and I ain't big enough."  

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