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In "To Kill a Mockingbird," how does Jem act like a mockingbird?

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joyjoy94 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 13, 2008 at 10:30 AM via web

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In "To Kill a Mockingbird," how does Jem act like a mockingbird?

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 13, 2008 at 12:22 PM (Answer #1)

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The definition of a mockingbird in the novel is Atticus' description of a creature that doesn't do any harm and also gives pleasure. In that regard, Jem could be described as something of a mockingbird. But, unlike Boo Radley or Tom Robinson, the true mockingbirds of the story, it takes Jem time to mature into one. At first, Jem takes part in the Boo Radley game, unaware of the harm he may be doing to people in the Radley house who can hear the children make fun of Boo. He also chops down Mrs. Dubose's roses. However, when Nathan fills the tree hole with cement, Jem cries because he realizes how important that hole was to Boo. He also reads to Mrs. Dubose after he almost destroys her garden, and later finds he has helped her to overcome her morphine addiction. When Scout and Jem sleep on the patio, Scout wants to kill a roly-poly bug. Jem stops her, saying the bug never did anything to harm her. And Jem show bravery when a mob shows up at his house by telling his father he has a phone call. Most importantly, Jem protects his sister against an attack from Bob Ewell and may have been killed if Boo Radley had not intervened. So I would describe Jem as a young mockingbird about ready to leave the nest when the novel ends.

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kstand01 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 26, 2009 at 12:53 PM (Answer #2)

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In my opinion, Jem is one of the most prevalent examples of a mockingbird in the book. The idea "to kill a mockingbird" is to destroy that innocence. Jem is forced through a traumatic psychological growth process because of the trial and the persecution his family is getting. His innocence is shot. Toward the end of the novel, Jem has grown so bitter toward the unjust world. He can no longer be a child anymore and is forced to see life for what it is. Realizing that is a death in its own sense. just throwing that out there. hope it helps :)

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ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted November 13, 2008 at 12:24 PM (Answer #3)

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Jem can't really be compared to the mockingbird.  He does speak of innocence when talking to Miss Maudie after the trial.  He says, "it's like bein' a caterpillar in a cocoon, that's what it is," he said. "Like something' asleep wrapped up in a warm place.  I always thought Maycomb folks were the best folks in the world, least that's what they seemed like."  However, as sensitive as Jem is, he is not the victim in the novel.  He is a young man growing into manhood.  When Scout is attacked, he tries to rescue her and he is injured.  But I still would not consider him the mockingbird.  "The two main victims of the prejudices of the people of Maycomb are Tom Robinson and Boo (Arthur) Radley. These two are like the mockingbirds referred to in the title and in the book itself. The children are told that it is a sin "To Kill a Mockingbird" because it fills the world with song and happiness and does no harm. Both Tom and Boo are portrayed by Lee as being similarly harmless and good."  While Jem does display some good qualities, he also is responsible for some pretty hurtful acts throughout the novel.

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