What does Jem mean by his "caterpillar in a cocoon" image in To Kill a Mockingbird?
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Jem describes his childhood as being a caterpillar in a cocoon because he always though the citizens of Maycomb were good people, and the trial made him feel differently.
Jem’s comparison of his childhood to a caterpillar in a cocoon demonstrates that he is growing up. He realizes that the world is not the place he thought it was.
"Like somethin' 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." (ch 22)
When Jem suggests that no one in the town helped Tom Robinson, Miss Maudie explains that many people actually did. She tells him that besides the help of the Negro community, many of the whites also supported Tom. Atticus, Miss Maudie, Mr. Raymond, Mr. Underwood, and some others are not racists. She also points out that Heck Tate and Judge Taylor also did whatever they could to help.
When Miss Maudie does not make a little cake for Jem, she is acknowledging that he is growing up. The trial was a rite of passage for him, and he is entering the adult world of reality.
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