What are Jem Finch's personality traits in To Kill a MockingBird, and how does he show these traits?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jem Finch is an imaginative, enthusiastic boy, who matures and develops into a morally-upright adolescent by the end of the story. Towards the beginning of the novel, Jem is portrayed as a naive, spirited boy, who believes false rumors about Boo Radley and offers fantastic descriptions of Boo to Dill and Scout. Scout recalls Jem's description of Boo by saying,

Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands were bloodstained—if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off. There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time. (Lee, 13)

Jem also demonstrates his daring, courageous behavior by conducting raids on the Radley yard and attempting to communicate with Boo. Jem is also compassionate and shows that he cares about Scout by giving her advice and sharing his birthday money with her. As Jem matures, he begins neglecting his sister in favor of hanging out with Dill. At times, Jem is portrayed as unsympathetic, even though he cares about Scout. Jem is also a loyal son and refuses to leave Atticus's side when the Old Sarum bunch surrounds him in chapter 15.

After witnessing the Tom Robinson trial, Jem becomes jaded with his prejudiced community and hopes to change the flawed justice system when he grows older. Jem develops into a sympathetic, compassionate young man, who believes in protecting innocent beings. He exercises tolerance when dealing with Scout and even protects her during Bob Ewell's attack. By the end of the novel, Jem matures into a caring, intelligent, morally-upright young man, who is following in his father's footsteps.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The personalities of Jem and Scout are actually very similar in To Kill a Mockingbird. Jem shows a hot temper on more than one occasion in the novel (though he is not as quick-tempered as Scout). He destroys Mrs. Dubose's camellias after she insults Atticus, and he becomes very angry after the guilty verdict is revealed in the Tom Robinson trial. Jem is very sensitive--much more so than Scout. He shows this side when he finds out that Nathan Radley has lied to him about cementing the knothole, and he shows them again after Mrs. Dubose's death. He also shows his heroism when he stands by Atticus at the jail in the face of the lynch mob, and he tries to fight off Bob Ewell to save his sister after the Halloween pageant. He is also a bit of an introvert, since he has few (if any) close friends, and he loves to read. He also loves sports (there are many sports references in the novel) and he goes out for the football year his first year of high school.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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