What does Harper Lee say about Scout and Jem growing up and becoming matured as they become exposed to the world?This is for a new criticism essay on the novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Harper Lee depicts Jem and Scout's different reactions to witnessing racial injustice firsthand following the unfortunate outcome of the Tom Robinson trial. Before Atticus gives his closing remarks, Scout and Dill have an enlightening conversation with Dolphus Raymond, who mentions that the older they get, the less upset they will become when they witness white people treating black people unfairly. Through Dolphus Raymond's comment, Harper Lee illustrates how children can develop into unsympathetic, passive citizens, who get used to living in a prejudiced society.

After the verdict is read, Jem is extremely upset and becomes jaded with the community of Maycomb. Prior to the trial, Jem never realized the overt racism throughout Maycomb and believed that he was surrounded by morally-upright people. As the novel progresses, Jem becomes less angry with his community and begins to question the proceedings. He develops a sense of sympathy and duty to change the justice system. Similar to his father, Jem also develops a sense of responsibility to protect innocent beings. Unlike Jem, Scout does not harbor any negative feelings towards her community. However, she does become more perceptive and aware of the racism and hypocrisy throughout Maycomb. Harper Lee portrays both characters as observant, sympathetic individuals, who learn an important lesson after witnessing Tom's injustice. They become aware of the overt racism throughout the community and develop a sense of duty to change the social atmosphere for the better.

lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Harper Lee writes about Jem and Scout growing up to learn how unfair life can be. Jem and Scout lose their innocence before and during the trial of Tom Robinson. While observing their father Atticus at his best in his defense of Tom, Jem is certain Tom will be set free or acquitted. When the verdict is read that Tom is guilty, Jem begins to cry out of anguish. Jem realizes that Tom is innocent. He cannot believe that a jury would find him guilty just because he is black.

Truly, Jem and Scout are growing up to the harsh reality that not all believe in equality. In fact, they learn first hand about injustice. They lose their childlike trust that everything will work out for the good of all people.

Jem comments that he had believed Maycomb had some of the best people. Now, he has a change of heart. After the trial, Jem says:

It's like being a catepillar in a cocoon, that's what it is .... I always thought Maycomb folks were the best folks in the world.

Now, Jem has come to realize that all men are not treated equally in Maycomb.

Atticus gives Jem hope that maybe, in his lifetime as an adult, times will change and justice will be served. Atticus and Jem both need something in which to hope.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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