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What does Jem mean when he says "it's like bein a caterpillar in a cocoon"? (Chapter...

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azndragon8 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted December 10, 2007 at 6:16 AM via web

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What does Jem mean when he says "it's like bein a caterpillar in a cocoon"? (Chapter 22)

I did not really understand the answer for this question below, so I'm asking it again. Can you give me a clear answer?

I'm wondering if Jem thinks that Maycomb was like a cocoon but he hasn't seen the truth of what Maycomb is like in the real world or if Tom Robinson was safe in a cocoon and since the jury says he is guilty now he's not? Sorry for the confusion.


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renelane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted December 10, 2007 at 7:29 AM (Answer #1)

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I think if you read the next thing he says it helps you understand. Jem  states "Like somethin' asleep wrapped up in a warm place". (TKAM 215). He has been unaware of the real world until this trial took place. He thought his town was the best place in the world, and this has made him grow up. Jem is growing up, and seeing things through more adult eyes. The caterpillar is nestled in a warm, safe enviroment, yet it changes and must leave the cocoon-just as Jem is doing. His childhood was his cocoon and as he is maturing he must leave the safe and secure notions behind.

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 9, 2015 at 11:23 AM (Answer #3)

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It seems as though Jem is referring both to himself and to Maycomb. The trial has shaken him out of his youthful innocence and naive belief that "Maycomb folks were the best folks in the world, least that’s what they seemed like." In this sense, he himself was the caterpillar in the cocoon, safe and sheltered from harsh outside realities. He thought Maycomb's people were the "best folks in the world" but of course he himself hadn't experienced people anywhere else in the world, as yet.

But maybe the caterpillar image could apply to Maycomb itself, too. It really is a small, sleepy, unremarkable little town which is closed unto itself, without much knowledge or interest in what goes on in big cities and the world at large. Generally life goes on in an even, untroubled way. However, Tom's trial, as an example of social injustice and prejudice, has shaken things up and called Maycomb's stalwart good people, like Atticus, to action. This is underlined by Miss Maudie's reply to Jem:

We're the safest folks in the world .... We're so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are we've got men like Atticus to go for us.


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