In To Kill a Mockingbird, what are examples of how the loss of innocence is painful for the children?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Two specific examples in the novel show how deeply Jem and Scout are affected by the terrible events unfolding around them. Innocence is lost as they come to grips with the painful realities they experience, especially in relation to Tom Robinson's destruction. Jem's faith in justice is shattered when Tom is convicted. As the jury is polled, Jem's demeanor as he hears each juror respond "Guilty" indicates the pain he is feeling:

. . . his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each "guilty" was a separate stab between them.

Jem does not deal with the injustice of Tom Robinson's conviction easily or quickly. It has shaken him, and the effects of his disillusionment are made clear in the following days. Jem's hurt and anger spill over one night when Scout speaks of a hateful comment she had heard at the courthouse after Tom's conviction:

Jem was suddenly furious. He leaped off the bed, grabbed me by the collar and shook me. "I never wanta hear about that courthouse again, ever, ever, you hear me? You hear me? Don't you ever say one word to me about it again, you hear?

His sudden fury indicates the depth of his pain.

Scout puzzles over Tom's conviction, but does not seem to understand its implications as does Jim. For Scout, the reality of the deep injustice done to Tom is not realized until he is shot to death in prison. Scout is present when Atticus explains how Tom had died:

They shot him . . . He was running. It was during their exercise period. They said he just broke into a blind raving charge at the fence and started climbing over. Right in front of them--

Scout reacts physically to the news of Tom's death and how he died:

I found myself shaking and couldn't stop. I had seen Enfield Prison Farm, and Atticus had pointed out the exercise yard to me. It was the size of a football field.

As Scout visualizes the shocking scene, Tom Robinson's tragedy becomes real for her, and incredibly painful.

 

 

 

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