How is Jem shown as trustworthy throughout To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As Jem grows older, he recognizes that responsibility goes along with maturity. Atticus allows Jem to escort Scout to her first day of school, "a job usually done by one's parents." Jem worries that Scout may be poisoned by the gum she finds in the knothole, and he directs her to "Spit it out right now!" When Jem returns to the Radley's collard patch after losing his pants, he does so in order to protect Atticus from finding out that the children have deceived him. Jem wants to maintain Atticus's trust in him and preserve the fact that Atticus

"... ain't ever whipped me since I can remember. I wanta keep it that way."  (Chapter 6)

Atticus trusts Jem to look after Scout on the night of Miss Maudie's house fire--

"Take care of Scout, you hear? Don't let her out of your sight."  (Chapter 8)

Atticus is surprised, however, when it is Jem who loses his temper at the mean-spirited Mrs. Dubose.

"I never thought Jem'd be the one to lose his head over this--thought I'd have more trouble with you."  (Chapter 11)

Atticus gives his children plenty of independence, hoping that his own actions and honest answers to their questions will always lead Jem and Scout to him for advice.

"I hope they trust me enough..."  (Chapter 9)

Scout and Dill are at first angry with Jem when he "broke the remaining code of our childhood" by ratting out Dill after he had run away from home, but they soon forgive him when they see that Jem's decision to tell Atticus was the correct one. Although Jem refuses to leave the jail on the night that the lynch mob appears, Atticus is proud of his son's bravery. Perhaps Atticus's most obvious display of how much he trusts his son comes when he allows Jem to escort Scout to the school Halloween pageant after dark. It is a decision that Atticus will regret, but he knows that Jem has risked his own life to defend his sister.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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