How Does Jem Change

How does Jem change in To Kill a Mockingbird, particularly in chapters 12–15?

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Although his new ways of analyzing the world around him leave Scout feeling more than a bit irritated, Jem shows character transformation in these chapters in his increasingly adult views of the world around him.

Scout finds Jem unbearable and often condescending at this point. Up until now, he has...

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Although his new ways of analyzing the world around him leave Scout feeling more than a bit irritated, Jem shows character transformation in these chapters in his increasingly adult views of the world around him.

Scout finds Jem unbearable and often condescending at this point. Up until now, he has been her equal playmate, content to play games involving Boo Radley and spend summers in a world of make-believe.

Now, Jem is no longer her equal and faithful ally. Jem isn't evolving into maturity without flaw, and when he threatens to "spank" Scout if she antagonizes their aunt, Scout physically attacks him in retaliation. In the same chapter, Scout finds Dill hiding under her bed, and Jem is the one who calls for Atticus, rationalizing this by telling his sister, "You can’t run three hundred miles off without your mother knowin'." This definitely shows a more mature view that his sister lacks, but it adds to Scout's growing frustration with her brother.

Jem's growing sense of the inherent danger of Tom Robinson's trial propels him to follow Atticus the night the Old Sarum gang shows up to Tom's cell. Jem realizes that Atticus's odd behavior in leaving (and in uncharacteristically taking the car) with a drop cord and light bulb could mean trouble. He also realizes that Atticus has no one to protect him, so he sets off in search of his father, which proves greatly advantageous to the eventual situation.

He's far from being fully mature, but Jem is realizing many truths about Maycomb that his childhood perspective clouded.

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In these chapters, Jem is showing that he is entering into adolescence. As he leaves childhood behind, he grows more and more distant from Scout and her concerns. He is at an awkward stage where he is a child but beginning to think more like an adult and to perceive himself as much older than Scout. Rather than treating Scout as a peer, as he (sort of) used to do, he now takes on a superior attitude and tries to tell her what to do.

Scout goes to Atticus about this, wondering if Jem has picked up a tapeworm. Atticus tells her that's not the case and that

I must be patient with him and disturb him as little as possible.

Scout is also startled that Calpurnia starts to refer to Jem as Mister Jem. When Scout registers surprise, Calpurnia responds mater-of-factly.

“Baby,” said Calpurnia, “I just can’t help it if Mister Jem’s growin‘ up. He’s gonna want to be off to himself a lot now, doin’ whatever boys do, so you just come right on in the kitchen when you feel lonesome."

Complicating Jem's maturation process is the Tom Robinson trial, the injustice of which the budding adolescent feels acutely as he tries to discover what it is to be an adult.

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At the beginning of chapter 12, Scout mentions that Jem is growing physically and starting to act differently each day. Jem becomes moody and even yells at Scout to start behaving like a girl. Calpurnia also begins referring to Jem as "Mister Jem," and Scout mentions that he develops a "maddening air of wisdom" (Lee, 118). Essentially, Jem is going through puberty, which affects both his physical appearance and emotional state. He no longer treats Scout as an equal and becomes rather antagonistic towards his younger sister in the following chapters.

In chapter 14, Scout mentions that Jem has become "allergic" to her presence in public and the two continually fuss throughout the day. After Scout offends Aunt Alexandra, Jem attempts to chastise her and ends up belittling his sister by referring to himself as a grown-up. When Scout challenges Jem, he oversteps his boundaries by saying, "Now I mean it, Scout, you antagonize Aunty and I’ll—I’ll spank you" (139). Scout responds by attacking her brother and the two siblings fight until Atticus breaks them up.

Despite Jem's superior attitude and domineering personality in chapters 12 through 14, he demonstrates his maturation and moral development in chapter 15 by refusing to leave Atticus's side. When the Old Sarum bunch surrounds Atticus, Jem refuses to go home with Scout and Dill and loyally remains by his father's side. Jem recognizes that his father is in danger and disobeys Atticus's commands to leave. After the Old Sarum bunch leaves, Atticus rubs Jem's head as a sign of affection and appreciation for remaining by his side.

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Jem was physically changing, as he turned 12 in chapter 12. But more importantly, he was beginning to think of himself as an adult as well.  Scout sees his almost "overnight" changes and describes them in her narration.

"Overnight, it seemed, Jem had acquired an alien set of values and was trying to impose them on me:  several times he went so far as to tell me what to do."

In this section he even tells her that she needs to act more like a girl--the very opposite of what he used to say--that she needed to stop acting like such a girl.  He also has developed a lofty sense of wisdom, too.  He reads the paper and doesn't want Scout to bother him.

Then in chapter 14, Jem "broke the remaining code of [their] childhood" by going to get Atticus when Dill showed up under Scout's bed.  He thinks more like an adult than he used to, and he's trying to act more like one as well.  He went to tell Atticus because he knew that Dill's family would be very worried.  That's an adult's concern, not a kid's.

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