To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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In chapter 14 of To Kill a Mockingbird, why does Scout start fighting Jem?  

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the subplots of the book is Jem's entrance into adolescence, which divides him from Scout. She is frustrated at the growing gulf between them, which she doesn't fully understand. As she puts it:

He didn’t want to do anything but read and go off by himself. Still, everything he read he passed along to me, but with this difference: formerly, because he thought I’d like it; now, for my edification and instruction.

When Jem takes on a tone of superiority and speaks of himself as one of the "adults," talking down to her as a child, Scout gets very angry at being belittled. He tells him she is not to antagonize Aunt Alexandria, as it adds to Atticus's stress. When he threatens to spank her if she doesn't do what he says, she explodes at his presumption.

The two brawl, hitting and punching each other. Scout is happy about this because it puts them back on an equal plane. It also clears the air so that they can get along again.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Chapter 14, Atticus is arguing with Aunt Alexandra over the role of Calpurnia in the Finch family when Jem motions to Scout to go to his room. Inside Jem's room, he tells Scout to stop antagonizing Aunt Alexandra. Scout gets defensive and says, "You tryin' to tell me what to do?" (Lee 183) Jem tries to explain to Scout that Atticus has a lot on his mind, particularly the Tom Robinson trial, and he doesn't need added stress worrying about them. Scout rebuttals, saying that Atticus doesn't worry about anything and cases never bothered him. Jem insults Scout by saying, "That's because you can't hold something in your mind but a little while...It's different with grown folks, we---." (Lee 184) Scout becomes upset at Jem's "maddening superiority" and finally punches him in the face after he threatens to spank her. Jem is forced to fight back, and the two brawl on the floor of Jem's room before Atticus breaks them apart.

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