How have Scout and Jem harmed others or been harmed in the novel, like a mockingbird, To Kill A Mockingbird?How have Scout and Jem harmed others or been harmed in the novel, like a mockingbird, To...

How have Scout and Jem harmed others or been harmed in the novel, like a mockingbird, To Kill A Mockingbird?

How have Scout and Jem harmed others or been harmed in the novel, like a mockingbird, To Kill A Mockingbird?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With a consideration of emotional harm,in their maturation throughout the narrative, both Scout and Jem of To Kill a Mockingbird experience some blows to their hearts and egos. Certainly, Scout's first day at school proves to be an emotional experience as her new teacher, Miss Caroline, scolds her, strikes her hand in punishment, and challenges Scout's upbringing.  For instance, Scout narrates,

Miss Caroline told me to tell my father not to teach me any more, it would interfere with my reading...."Your father does not know how to teach."

Then, as if her day were not emotionally trying enough, Scout again is severely reprimanded by Calpurnia with "a stinging smack" in the kitchen when Scout makes rude comments about Walter Cunningham's table manners at lunch.  However, that evening, Atticus comforts the emotionally-tried Scout and counsels her,

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view."

Scout's emotional harm has clearly profited her as, after considering her father's counsel, she remarks,

Miss Caroline had learned several things herself....We couldnot expect her to learn all Maycomb's ways in one day, and we could not hold her responsible when she knew no better.

Likewise, Jem learns from his emotionally-charged errors.  As Jem goes through puberty, he is moody and sullen.  One day, Mrs. Dubose is especially insulting as the children pass her house on Jem's twelfth birthday; she accuses Jem of stealing a neighbor's grapes. But worse, in her insult to Scout that she will merely be a waitress in the local cafe, fires a "shot":

"Not only a Finch waiting on tables but one in the courthouse lawing for n----! ....Your father's no better than the n-----s and trash he works for!"

This emotional blow is too much for Jem, who retaliates by cutting the tops off Mrs. Dubose's camellias.  Of course, his father punishes him by having him read to the elderly woman every day.  As repugnant as this task is, Jem, at least, begins to perceive her as a human being.  When she dies, Atticus explains that she was a "bravest woman" he has ever known, revealing her victory over drug addiction.  In a candy box, Mrs. Dubose has left Jem a camellia, a camellia that later Jem holds and fingers the wide petals thoughtfully.

In Chapter 22, emotionally injured by the cruelty of the jurors who unjustly have convicted Tom Robinson of the charges which Mayella Ewell has brought against him, Jem's eyes burn with angry tears.  At home, he asks his father, "How could they do it, how could they?"  Atticus responds in the only way he can,"I don't know, but they did....seems that only children weep.  Good night."  This emotional blow is one from which Jem does not easily recover.  In fact, it changes him from a boy to a young man.

Of course, the final incident of the narrative, the attack by Bob Ewell, while harming both Scout and Jem, teaches them much about misjudging people like Boo Radley.  Furthermore, it restores some of their faith in people as Sherriff Tate acts out of great charity toward all concerned in the incident.

Elie Kazan, the famous director of such films as A Streetcar Named Desire, once said that without great struggles in one's life, no person grows emotionally, no one can become a worthy person, capable of sympathies and strength.  The emotional experiences of Scout and Jem surely effect their maturation as more sympathetic and stronger individuals.

booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Scout and Jem do not hurt the characters who are considered mockingbirds (like Boo Radley and Tom Robinson), they do sometimes harm those who are not as strong as they are.

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem harms Mrs. Dubose by destroying her camellias. In anger over something she said about 
Atticus, Jem destroys every flower or bud in her garden. Scout goes after Walter Cunningham, an unassuming youngster who inadvertently gets Scout in trouble when she tries to explain to her teacher why Walter will not accept charity. She also has it out with Cecil Jacobs once in defense of Atticus, but at another point walks away from his insults so as not to disappoint her father.

Scout pays back her cousin Francis for nasty comments he makes about Atticus by punching him in the face, though the reader can sympathize with her need to punish him for his mean streak and his manipulation that gets Scout into hot water when he blames her for the entire incident. (He is not weaker, but does not play fair, and Scout has a strong sense of playing fair, as she points out to Uncle Jack at the time.)

Scout and Jem become like mockingbirds when Bob Ewell attacks them. Ewell is out of his mind to go after the Scout and Jem: they are defenseless children. But he is a malicious and evil-spirited man who is insanely angry, ready to harm anyone who was involved in the case with Tom Robinson and showed him any courtesy or kindness—this includes his attack of Atticus' son and daughter.

We never know how Jem is changed by his experience with Bob Ewell, but we are aware of how hard Mrs. Dubose's death hits him. And we also learn that Scout finds the ability to walk away from a fistfight even when Cecil Jacobs calls her a coward. And, of course, she is able to look at Boo Radley as a real person, not a phantom or frightening creature of the night. When he saves the children and carries Jem home, he comes out of the darkness into the light, a hero. And Scout takes him by the arm and, with kindness and dignity, walks him home in such a manner as to make any woman of the community proud of her behavior in dealing with a gentleman who had "come to call."

There are many lessons that Jem and Scout learn during the novel. We see this as they suffer through the court case, and grow up over the course of several summers with characters like Boo Radley, Mrs. Dubose and others who make up the community of Maycomb.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question contains direct answers like the idea that Scout was physically hurt in fights. She was also physically harmed by Bob Ewell during the altercation under the tree in chapter 28. However, to target the idea of the mockingbird, focus must be given to how Jem and Scout were robbed of their innocence which children maintain as they are still young.

In my opinion, the town's gossip about Tom Robinson and the Negros as Scout overhears them speaking to one another in groups at church, at the missionary circle, or in town begins to destroy her innocence because she sees how terrible people can actually be to each other. In chapter 23, we see the two children struggle with this and it impacts Jem greatly:

Jem turned around and punched his pillow. When he settled back his face was cloudy. He was going into one of his declines, and I grew wary. His brows came together; his mouth became a thin line. He was silent for a while.

“That’s what I thought, too,” he said at last, “when I was your age. If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike,why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I’m beginning to understand something. I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all this time… it’s because he wants to stay inside.”

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an excellent essay question. One of the first examples that comes to mind is on Scout's first day of school in the first grade. After Scout tried to defend Walter Cunningham Jr. by explaining to her teacher that he had no lunch (or money for lunch), the inexperienced Miss Caroline spanked Scout with a ruler and sent her to the corner. Scout took out her anger and frustration on Walter during lunch break, "rubbing his nose in the dirt." Miss Caroline's bullying behavior affected Scout's attitude about school for years; Scout, meanwhile, in turn picked on poor, hookworm-ridden Walter--one of the many human mockingbirds in the novel. Scout took out her frustrations on Walter again during lunch at the Finch house when she made fun of him for pouring syrup over all of his food. This time it was Calpurnia who escorted her from the kitchen, giving her a good lesson on proper behavior when invited guests are present.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout and Jem are also harmed in Chapter 12.  This is when they go to the First Purchase church with Calpurnia.  Lula sees them and basically tells them that they are not wanted.  This is harmful because the kids are being seen not as individuals who are welcome anywhere, but as generic white people who are excluded because of their race.  Obviously, being white in Maycomb usually is an advantage, but this time, it hurts them.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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