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Who has the most positive and most negative influence on Scout in To Kill a...

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seyitano | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 27, 2012 at 2:54 AM via web

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Who has the most positive and most negative influence on Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Please also give refrence to the book and maybe personal experiences on who and why. The "who" can be a group of people or just a person.

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 1, 2013 at 10:32 PM (Answer #1)

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The best answer seems to be Jem as both the most positive and most negative influence on Scout. Jem leads Scout to ridicule Boo Radley and to assault the privacy of this recluse. However, later Jem encourages Scout to restrain herself from killing a harmless insect.

Through a number examples, we see that Jem's growth in the novel serves to pave the way for Scout's growth as well. Yet as the novel begins, Jem's influence is not always positive. 

Many of the games the children play are initiated by Jem, the oldest of the three. He tries to demonstrate courage and manliness in ways including being brave enough to touch the Radley house...

When Jem and Dill hatch a plan to sneak into the Radley yard to look inside through a window, Scout tries to talk the boys out of the idea. She fails to persuade them and ends up going along. This is, perhaps, the clearest example of Jem's negative influence on Scout as she is nearly shot during the event. 

...they attempt to look in the house to see Boo, but a shotgun blast from Nathan Radley, Boo's brother, drives them off.

Not long after this episode, Jem begins to mature. Though this process serves to distance the siblings, it also brings Jem closer to the adult world, rendering him a better example of proper behavior for Scout. Jem becomes more restrained, patient, and thoughtful than he had previously been. 

These are traits that Scout is particularly challenged to attain, being rather hot-headed and impetuous. Jem is able to demonstrate some of the lessons that Scout is struggling to learn in the second half of the novel. The closeness between the two siblings helps to amplify Jem's influence on Scout and her development. 

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