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As a bildungsroman, Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird contains numerous episodes in which the children seek the advice or the respect of their father. Here are some instances in which Jem acts in order to maintain or earn respect from his father:
1. In Chapter 6, after Jem has impulsively taken Dill's bet to leave a message for Boo Radley at his window and has had to run only to snag his pants on the fence and remove them in his flight from Nathan Radley's shotgun. Shortly thereafter under the scrutiny of Atticus and Dill's Aunt Rachel, Jem has explained the absence of his pants as the result of playing strip-poker; however, he realizes that the pants may be brought to Atticus by Mr. Radley. So, not wanting to lose the respect of his father if he learns the truth, Jem informs Scout that he is going to return to the Radleys' yard for his pants. When he returns, Jem trembles from the fear of what could have happened to him.
2. In Chapter 14, when Dill runs away from home and sneaks into Scout's bedroom, Jem tells Dill that he should let his mother know where he is. Scout narrates,
Then he broke the remaining code of our childhood. He went out of the room and down the hall.
Jem calls Atticus to Scout's room. After Atticus heads to Aunt Rachel's, an angered Dill confronts Jem, who insists that Dill must not run three hundred miles off without notifying his mother. Clearly, Jem's act demonstrates maturity, and it is an act that Atticus respects.
3. In Chapter 15, Jem tells Scout late at night that he is going downtown; she insists upon accompanying him as does Dill. As they near the jail, the children notice a single light bulb burning mysteriously over the jailhouse door with Atticus beneath it, reading the newspaper. Then, they espy cars stopping and men moving toward the jail door. Scout pushes her way to the men and Jem approaches, so Atticus instructs Jem to take his sister home. However, Jem refuses to do so:
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, [but]...mutual defiance made them alike.
After all the tension between Atticus and the men is diffused by the children's intervention, Atticus and Jem walk together toward home; Atticus "reached out and massaged Jem's hair" in affection and respect for his boy.
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