To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, give one example of direct characterization and one example of indirect characterization of Jem.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the opening paragraph of the novel, Scout offers a direct characterization of her brother, by saying,

Jem’s fears of never being able to play football were assuaged, he was seldom self-conscious about his injury. His left arm was somewhat shorter than his right; when he stood or walked, the back of his hand was at right angles to his body, his thumb parallel to his thigh (Lee, 1).

Scout's initial description of Jem is considered an example of direct characterization because she tells the reader in a straightforward manner that Jem is rarely self-conscious and proceeds to give an accurate description of his physical characteristics. In chapter four, Scout once again uses direct characterization to describe her brother when he comes up with the idea to play the Boo Radley game. Scout says,

Jem’s head at times was transparent: he had thought that up to make me understand he wasn’t afraid of Radleys in any shape or form, to contrast his own fearless heroism with my cowardice"(Lee, 39).

A good example of when Harper Lee utilizes indirect characterization is when Jem decides to return to the Radley yard at night to retrieve his pants. Towards the end of chapter six, Scout begs her brother to not return to the Radley yard and he says,

"I—it’s like this, Scout . . . Atticus ain’t ever whipped me since I can remember. I wanta keep it that way" (Lee, 57).

Jem's reasoning for returning to the Radley to retrieve his pants reveals that he is a courageous young man, who respects and admires his father. Jem realizes that Atticus will be upset if Nathan Radley discovers his pants and does not want to disappoint his father. Jem's willingness to risk his life to not disappoint Atticus reveals his integrity and love for his father.

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