How is maturity internalised in Jem and Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird? 

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To internalize is to adopt such things as the cultural values and morals of a group through learning and socializing (Random House Dictionary). Hence, as one matures, one undergoes a process of internalizing beliefs accepted by society. In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, it can be said that both Jem and Scout internalize maturity by learning to be a gentleman and a lady, respectively.

Through observing his father, Jem grows to understand that to be a gentleman is to be able to show the utmost respect to all living beings at all times. One moment in which Jem learns this lesson is when he observes his father demonstrate his perfect marksmanship by shooting a rabid dog to protect his family and neighborhood. When Scout doesn't understand why Atticus kept his skills a secret, Jem understands it is because Atticus values life too much to be able to boast about his abilities to kill life in one shot, as we see when Jem says to his sister, "Naw, Scout, it's something you wouldn't understand ... Atticus is a gentleman, just like me!" (Ch. 11).

Likewise, Scout internalizes maturity through learning to appreciate being a lady by observing the ladies around her whom she admires. Scout strongly resists the idea of needing to behave like a lady at the start of the story. However, the more she socializes with ladies such as Miss Maudie, Calpurnia, and Aunt Alexandra, the more she begins to understand what it truly means to be a lady. One thing she learns is that, just like being a gentleman means treating others with respect, being a lady means the same thing. More specifically, ladies treat others with respect by maintaining humility, like Calpurnia, and being brave, like Miss Maudie and Aunt Alexandra. Scout finally makes the decision she can be a lady when she observes her aunt and Miss Maudie put on brave faces the day they learn of Tom Robinson's unfortunate and untimely death. Their brave faces allow them to continue to treat their guests with the utmost courtesy and respect. Scout notes her decision to be a lady in the following:

I carefully picked up the tray and watched myself walk to Mrs. Merriweather. With my best company manners, I asked her if she would have some. After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I. (Ch. 24)

Hence, as we can see, both Scout and Jem internalize maturity as they learn from observing others around them how to be respectful and even courageous, two characteristics Maycomb's society highly values.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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