Jem is now 12. There is a widening gap of understanding between him and Scout. Find two or three examples which illustrate the emotional distance between them.

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chapter 14 is where a couple of disputes between Jem and Scout truly show them drifting apart. Jem is growing up and taking on a more adult attitude towards life. Scout, on the other hand, is still young and playing through life with a child-like attitude. Jem does understand adults better because he sees how riled up Aunt Alexandra can get when Scout challenges her. As a result, Jem takes it upon himself to ask Scout to stop "antagonizing" their aunt. Scout's response is as follows:

"His maddening superiority was unbearable these days. 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" (138).

The above quote shows that Scout and Jem don't play like they used to. The only interaction that Jem gives her is to instruct her in what he has learned from his reading, and she does not like the self-righteous attitude that she thinks comes with it. Scout picks a physical fight with Jem after this, which helps to prove to herself that Jem is still a kid--because an "adult" wouldn't have fought with a "child."

Atticus comes in to break up the childish fight and Scout asks him if she has to start obeying Jem, now. Atticus says, "Let's leave it at this: you mind Jem whenever he can make you. Fair enough?" (138). This shows that Jem will have to work harder to get Scout to mind him; but if he can do it, then Scout should follow accordingly. Therefore, there's a bit of a separation in status between the two, but they are also on the same ground as far as childhood is concerned. He's not grown up just yet.

Finally, the next thing Jem does cancels him from being a child in Scout's eyes. He snitches on a friend. When Scout finds a runaway Dill hiding under her bed, she tells Jem, but Jem tells Atticus. The shock of the scene is described as follows:

"Dill's eyes flickered at Jem, and Jem looked at the floor. Then he rose and broke the remaining code of our childhood. He went out of the room and down the hall. 'Atticus,' his voice was distant, 'can you come here a minute, sir?'"

When Scout says that Jem broke the last remaining childhood code, that seemed to seal the gap between them. She understands that he isn't going to adhere to childhood codes anymore because he will choose to act like an adult instead.

 

 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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