What are the causes and effects of Scout and Jem changing throughout the To Kill a Mockingbird?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major events of the novel have a direct and personal impact on Jem and Scout, leading them to mature through hardship and sometimes through instruction. 

For Scout, going to school helps her to begin to see that the life in her own house is not the same as the life of her community. Though she was aware that others conducted themselves differently, she was not prepared to deal with social norms that were strictly enforced and which she could not agree with. 

This challenge is what brought Atticus to suggest that Scout learn to walk in another person's shoes, to empathize, and in doing so develop patience and a wider sense of "right and wrong". 

Jem is also encouraged to take an empathetic view of others and this is clearly at the heart of his experience with Mrs. Dubose.

While he is not prepared to fully understand the lesson she presents, Atticus explains. 

He admires Mrs. Dubose for her strength in fighting her morphine addiction even while disagreeing with her intolerant views.

The most important event for Jem and Scout is the trial of Tom Robinson. Both children are tasked to act with restraint and dignity leading up to the trial then forced to face the harse social reality of their town. 

As witnesses to the events surrounding Tom Robinson’s trial they see a miscarriage of justice, with an innocent man condemned before he even enters the courtroom.

Jem is disturbed and deeply disappointed by the outcome of the trial. His idealization of the people of Maycomb comes to an end as does his innocence. 

In dealing with these various challenges, both Scout and Jem learn that rumors and first impressions often do not tell the whole story and also learn to value integrity, in themselves and others. 

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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