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What are the characteristics of Jem, Atticus and Calpurnia from To Kill a Mockingbird...

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wanderista | Student, Grade 11 | Valedictorian

Posted May 13, 2013 at 10:59 AM via web

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What are the characteristics of Jem, Atticus and Calpurnia from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 14, 2013 at 12:57 PM (Answer #1)

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Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird portrays many interesting characters.  Among those characters are Atticus Finch, Jem Finch, and Calpurnia.  Each character is autobiographical based on Lee’s experiences in her childhood.

Atticus-

Atticus serves as the moral gauge for the children.  As a parent, his strong suit comes from the explanations and the strength that he provides his children. Not only is Atticus a well-respected citizen and lawyer in the community, the townspeople elect him as a state representative. 

One of the best lessons that he teaches his children concerns Boo Radley and Walter Cunningham.  He wants his children to not make judgments about someone until they have seen things from his/her  standpoint---walk around in his shoes to see what the other person sees.

In addition, Atticus is the moral compass for the town.  When he defends Tom Robinson, Atticus realizes that his children are going to be targeted by the prejudiced people of the town.  He demonstrates his humanity and his courage when he stands up against not only the lynch mob but Bob Ewell as well.

From this aspect of the story, Atticus teaches his children that there are those people who need help.  They have no defense against the hard things that happen in the world.  In this part of the story, the children learn that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird---Boo Radley, Tom Robinson, and even Mayella Ewell.

Jem-

Over the course of the story, it is Jem who changes and matures more than anyone else.  The story spans his puberty years and watches as he struggles to understand why people do the negative things that they do. 

He learns to be a better brother and to exhibit many of the qualities of his father. When Dill runs away, Jem must break the code of the children  because of his fear that Dill will be hurt; therefore, he tells Atticus what has happened to Dill.  Scout reports that Jem is moody and lays around and thinks.

 “You know something Scout? I’ve got it all figured out.  I’ve thought about it a lot lately.  There are four kinds of folks in the world. There’s the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there’s the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dumps, and the Negroes.”

To further prove his maturity, when the children are attacked, Jem shows little fear when he fights the assailant who breaks his arm.

Calpurnia-

Calpurnia serves as a substitute mother for their mother who died.  She loves the children but firmly establishes the ground rules that the children must follow. Cal’s kindness to Scout helps the little girl, particularly when Calpurnia reinforces the values of Atticus.  Atticus supports Calpurnia when the Aunt criticizes her because on a daily basis she keeps the house and the children on course. 

The children are lucky to have someone as loyal and kind as Cal.  Atticus does not worry at all when he knows that Calpurnia is there for the children. She actually moved with Atticus to Maycomb.

As one of the few Negroes in town who can read and write, Calpurnia shows no superiority to the other blacks. It is Calpurnia who taught Scout to read. In fact, one of the fun chapters in the book provides details of Calpurnia’s life away from the Finches.  To Scout, Cal lives a double life; when she is around the other black people, she changes her style of talking and her education and becomes like the other Negroes.

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