What makes Jem and Scout begin to ''part company'' in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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price7781 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jem grows up over the course of the book, and even Scout notices that he is moodier and spending a lot of time alone.  Jem especially doesn’t want Scout pestering him at school when he is with all of his buddies on the playground.  He is maturing and leaving Scout and their childhood games behind.  As Jem grows, he also begins to understand the seriousness of the trial and other events going on in Maycomb.  He becomes more truthful and grown up when he tells Atticus that Dill has run away and is hiding under his bed.  He is old enough to break the “childhood code” of not squealing on your friends because he understands the seriousness of Dill’s actions.  Jem also confesses to Atticus about the Radley game and his attempts to lure Boo out of his house after Boo wraps Scout in a blanket during Miss Maudie’s fire.  It is here that Jem sees Boo for who he really is, and Jem is mature enough to understand that the ignorant superstitions about Boo are false. 

Jem is impacted by his father’s honest and humble character when he learns that Atticus is not a boring, old man (when Atticus kills the rabid dog) and when Atticus defends Tom Robinson during the trial.  Jem wants to emulate his father and become more responsible as he approaches the age of 13 in the book.  Throughout the book, Jem experiences a rite of passage where he leaves his childhood behind and become closer to adulthood because of the obstacles and hardships he faces, because of the lessons he learns, and because of the decisions he makes.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 6, Scout writes that she and Jem begin to "part company" when they are arguing about what to do about Jem's pants. He lost them while escaping from the Radleys' yard, as Mr. Nathan was shooting at him. Jem, fiercely independent, would rather avoid a whipping from Atticus, and the embarrassment that would entail, even though it means he will risk getting shot at again. However, Scout, who is younger, thinks Jem is foolish for risking his life rather than just admitting what he did to Atticus.

Part of the reason that Scout and Jem begin to part company is that Jem is older than Scout and ready for greater independence. In addition, as a girl in a sleepy southern town during the Great Depression, Scout is supposed to limit herself to ladylike activities rather than the type of risk-taking Jem enjoys (though Scout chafes against these restrictions). Finally, Jem has a great deal of integrity in certain ways. He likes to be known as a person of his word, and he takes this responsibility seriously. It takes Scout a while to understand this facet of his nature. 

mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Part II of To Kill a Mockingbird, the relationship between Jem and Scout grows more distant for the following reasons:

  • Jem is an adolescent now, nearly 13, and he becomes annoyed with his child sister.
  • Jem is growing more masculine, patterning himself after Atticus.  Instead of playing the "Boo Radley Game," as he did with Scout in Part I, Jem wants to fire his air rifle.
  • Jem has grown much more serious in Part II because of the trial.  He senses the racial injustice much more than Scout, and it bothers him.  As a result, he grows more distant and withdrawn.
  • The author uses separation (segregation) as a theme, building toward the end when the children will be attacked by Bob Ewell.
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To Kill a Mockingbird

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