What adjectives can be used to describe Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

BRAVEJem shows his bravery when he takes Dill's dare to run and touch the Radley house, but he risks his life to protect Scout from the murderous Bob Ewell later in the novel.

CURIOUS .  Curiosity gets the better of Jem several times during the novel, usually in...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

BRAVEJem shows his bravery when he takes Dill's dare to run and touch the Radley house, but he risks his life to protect Scout from the murderous Bob Ewell later in the novel.

CURIOUS.  Curiosity gets the better of Jem several times during the novel, usually in episodes dealing with Boo Radley. His quest to make contact with Boo eventually fails, but he is relentless in his pursuit until the knothole is cemented.

SUPERSTITIOUS.  Jem talks about Hot Steams and the powers of the Indian head penny, among others.

ATHLETIC.  Jem has his eyes set on playing football for his school, though he never gets to play ball with Atticus. He spends a great deal of time outdoors--running past the Radley place and swimming at Barker's Eddy.

EMOTIONAL.  Jem loses his temper a few times during the novel. He gets angry with Mrs. Dubose and again when Atticus forces him to read to her. He becomes angy about the outcome of the Tom Robinson trial, and wrestles with Scout on occasion.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Sensitive - Jem cares about what his father thinks of him, he wants to obey. He does love his sister and cares about her well being even though he likes to make her think otherwise.

Pensive - This means thinking. Jem is a serious thinker that Scout notes throughout the text. Sometimes he would wander off to behind the car house and just think. She thinks he would often recall their mother whom she had such little recollection of.

Adolescent - Jem thinks he is growing hair, he stuffs his face with bananas for football season next year, and he is referred to as Mister Jem. Also, he is often moody.

Just - Jem struggled with the verdict of the trial because it wasn't fair. He couldn't justify in his mind why men would be so terrible as to not accept the truth.

Obedient - Even though Jem did wrong things, he accepted life's consequence. Take the incident with Mrs. Dubose for example. She really cracked him. He would have liked to not have to go over there and read every day. But he does it because his father instructed him to do it.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee characterizes Jem Finch as being very similar to his father while also being his own person. Jem is characterized as a very morally upright, brave person, while also still being a bit young, naive, and rebellious. Throughout the story, Scout, the narrator, uses many adjectives to describe what her brother Jem is like as a person.

Early on, Scout describes her brother Jem as prideful while also pointing out that he is "respectful." Jem's pride surfaces the moment Dill begins to persuade Jem to conspire with him to try and get Boo Radley to come out of his house. Scout notes Jem's pride when she describes Jem thinking over Dill's temptation for three days in the following:

Jem thought about it for three days. I suppose he loved honor more than his head, for Dill wore him down easily. (Ch. 1)

Scout also notes that Jem finally gave in to Dill's persuasion on the third day to make Boo come out. In saying that Jem "loved honor more than his head," Scout is saying that Jem loved his pride more than he loved thinking reasonably. Since Jem doesn't want Dill thinking he is chicken, Jem becomes willing to give in to Dill's persuasion.

In this same passage, Scout also describes Jem as being a reasonably respectful person while growing up when she notes his response to Dill's taunt that Jem is scared. According to Scout's narration, Jem replies, "Ain't scared, just respectful," which shows us that Jem has been brought up to be morally inclined to respect other peoples' thoughts, feelings, and privacy (Ch. 1).

As Jem gets older, he begins spending less time with Scout and more time by himself. He especially spends time alone reading football magazines. It's at this stage in their relationship when Scout describes him as having a sense of  "maddening superiority" (Ch. 14). For example, Scout considers it "maddening" that Jem should think he understands more than Scout about how worried adults can be. More specifically, at one point, Jem begs Scout not to "antagonize Aunty [Alexandra]" because Alexandra and Atticus are beginning to quarrel due to the fact that Atticus has a lot on his mind concerning Tom Robinson's trial. Scout insists "Atticus [doesn't] worry about anything" and that the trial only worries him about once a week. When Jem says the only reason why Scout thinks the trial isn't worrying Atticus is because she "can't hold something in [her] mind but a little while," whereas adults can think about things for a longer time, Scout becomes infuriated by what she calls Jem's "maddening superiority" (Ch. 14).

Hence, as we can see, Jem is described as a very complex character who is usually respectful and moral but can also be prideful and rebellious.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on