In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, what are some examples of how Jem shows obedience.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Atticus Finch has done a good job of raising his children in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. That is not to say that his kids are always obedient, but Jem sees himself as a mature older brother to Scout, and hates to disappoint his father. When Atticus gives him directions, he does not argue.

One way that Jem shows his obedience is when he returns to Mrs. Dubose to apologize (in Chapter 11) for destroying her flowerbed— after she insulted Atticus. Jem's dad tells him: do something like this to a sick old lady is inexcusable. I strongly advise you to go down and have a talk with Mrs. Dubose...

Jem does as he is told. When punishment is dealt out for his behavior, once again he is obedient, although Atticus asks him to do what Jem considers the worst possible penalty:

"Atticus [...] she wants me to read to her [...] She wants me to come every afternoon after school and Saturdays and read to her out loud for two hours. Atticus, do I have to?"


"But she wants me to do it for a month."

"Then you'll do it for a month."

Jem and Scout both report to Mrs. Dubose for the month, and Jem reads. When the month is over, Mrs. Dubose wants Jem to read to her a little longer. (We find later that she was fighting a morphine addiction, caused by dependence upon painkillers as she grew closer to death: but she wanted to be free of the drugs before she passed on; Jem's reading distracted her, though often it seemed she didn't even hear him.) Jem was unhappy to have to read longer, but out of obedience to his father, he continues to read until Mrs. Dubose tells him that he does not need to return.

However, until the end of his visits, when Mrs. Dubose seems to be more self-possessed, he has learned to tolerate her unkind words. Jem's obedience has made him stronger:

Jem's chin would come up, and he would gaze at Mrs. Dubose with a face devoid of resentment. Through the weeks he had cultivated an expression of polite and detached interest, which he would present to her in answer to her most blood-curdling inventions.

It is not long before Mrs. Dubose passes away. Jem is conflicted with how he feels about the news—not liking her, but seemingly deeply touched by her death. His father explains how hard Mrs. Dubose worked to free herself from her addiction; and Atticus tells Jem:

She was the bravest person I ever knew.

Jem is more mature and a stronger person for being obedient to his father.


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