In To Kill a Mockingbird, what does Jem mean when he says "It ain’t right"?

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At the beginning of chapter 22 in To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem claims, "It ain't right, Atticus ." He says this because Tom Robinson has been found guilty of charges of rape against Mayella Ewell, and Jem believes Tom is innocent. As the son of a lawyer, Jem is...

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At the beginning of chapter 22 in To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem claims, "It ain't right, Atticus." He says this because Tom Robinson has been found guilty of charges of rape against Mayella Ewell, and Jem believes Tom is innocent. As the son of a lawyer, Jem is convinced that Atticus has proven his case effectively. In Jem's mind, the jury should see the discrepancies and inconsistencies in the testimonies of Bob and Mayella Ewell. After the jury leaves to deliberate, Jem questions Atticus, "We've won, haven't we?"

Jem's age must also be considered when looking at his reaction to the verdict. As a boy, he still retains an innocence and naivety that make it difficult for him to consider more than just facts. His faith in people leads him to believe the jury will do the right thing. When the jury returns with a guilty verdict, Scout recalls that Jem almost experiences physical pain as the verdict is announced. She remembers that "his shoulders jerked" each time the word "guilty" is read.

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Jem says to Atticus the “it ain't fair” in regard to the judge’s ruling in the case of Tom Robinson. This is an important part of the novel because it portrays Jem’s loss of innocence. Previously, Jem did not come into contact with the reality of the overwhelming racial prejudice in Maycomb County until the ruling in Robinson’s case was revealed. Tom Robinson was an innocent African-American that was unjustly convicted of raping Mayella Ewell because of the simple fact that he was a black man in Maycomb, Alabama. Jem is both shocked and disgusted at the ruling when he says, “it aint fair.” His disbelief that an innocent man would be convicted on the basis of his skin color drastically alters his innocent perception of the world. Atticus concurs with Jem’s statement and says that this injustice has happened before, and will happen again.

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