Even though Jem Finch is brave, how does he still rely on Atticus when he is scared in Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird? Provide 2-3 quotes from chapters 1-15.

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To Kill a Mockingbird covers the years surrounding Jem's preteen years--ages 10 to 12. These are impressionable years but also years when many kids assert their independence while facing childhood fears. As the Finch kids come to learn the realities of life, some scary or surprising events emerge. Jem handles life on his own, generally, but when something pops up that he's unsure of, he either watches how his father reacts to those situations or he goes and asks Atticus for help. 

One of the first events that causes Jem to watch Atticus for an example of how to behave is when Miss Maudie's house is burning. Atticus tells Jem to take care of Scout while he goes to help. When Jem notices that he and Scout are feeling scared, he gives her some advice to watch Atticus to know when to to start worrying. He tells Scout the following:

"'See there, he's not worried yet,' said Jem.

'Why ain't he on top of one of the houses?'

'He's too old, he'd break his neck. . . Let's don't pester him, he'll know when it's time'" (70).

This passage shows that Jem watches Atticus to see how to face a crisis. He trusts his father so much, that all he has to do is watch the example set before him in order to calm himself and Scout down.

Another scary episode happens when Jem spots a mad dog coming down the street. Jem does not try to be a hero. Jem knows when to call in his father for help and when to take care of the situation himself. The mad dog was more than he could handle at his age; so, Jem goes straight to Calpurnia for help because he knows she will call Atticus. Atticus and Heck Tate are called in to help and Atticus is calm and collected as always. When the kids discover that Atticus is a dead shot (by killing the dog) Scout wants to tell the world. Jem tells her not to because "if he wanted us to know it, he'da told us. If he was proud of it, he'da told us. . . Atticus is a gentleman, just like me!" (98-99).

Finally, during an even scarier situation, the kids discover Atticus guarding Tom Robinson at the jail before the trial. After Scout breaks away from Jem to run toward Atticus, Jem follows up to catch her. Once there, Jem refuses to leave when his father asks him to because Atticus doesn't say, "It's not time to worry." Jem fully understands that his dad is in trouble. Yet again, Jem behaves like his father by not reacting incorrectly or rashly. Atticus shows his approval for how Jem handled a scary situation as follows:

"Atticus  and Jem were well ahead of us, and I assumed that Atticus was giving him hell for not going home, but I was wrong. As they passed under the streetlight Atticus reached out and massaged Jem's hair, his one gesture of affection" (155).

Atticus and Jem have an unspoken relationship of trust. Jem knows when to ask for help even though he has the courage of his father. He understands that his father will lead them right and protect them as he follows his father's lead.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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