What are some negative adjectives to describe Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem) from To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers
tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jem, for the most part, is a good boy. He does his best to be the gentleman that Atticus wants him to be. There are some times, however, where he loses control of his temper and he can be rough and a little too aggressive with his little sister, Scout. For example, when Scout tells Dill not to believe Jem regarding Hot Steams in chapter 4, he doesn't say anything, but pushes her a little too aggressively down the road in the tire to teach her a lesson:

"Until it happened I did not realize that Jem was offended by my contradicting him on Hot Steams, and that he was patiently awaiting an opportunity to reward me. He did, by pushing the tire down the sidewalk with all the force in his body" (37).

Jem seems to be passive-aggressive in this instance because he "patiently" waits for an opportunity to get Scout back for contradicting him. He's not directly starting a fight with her, but hides behind the playful tire ride to quietly show her his disapproval of her.

At other times, Jem can be down-right aggressive and combative. Take the incident with Mrs. Dubose's camellia bushes in chapter 11, for instance. Jem has just bought a baton for Scout, but during a moment of crazed vindictiveness, he grabs it from her to take out his anger against Mrs. Dubose by chopping off the tops of the bushes. At the end of this brutal display of rage, he breaks the baton and roughs up Scout in the process.

"By that time I was shrieking. Jem yanked my hair, said he didn't care, he'd do it again if he got a chance, and if I didn't shut up he'd pull every hair out of my head. I didn't shut up and he kicked me. I lost my balance and fell on my face. Jem picked me up roughly but looked like he was sorry. There was nothing to say" (103).

During this incident, Jem is physically abusive and domineering. He may have looked sorry, but he is never apologetic towards Scout. The code of childhood must say that the look of regret in Jem's eyes was enough, and Scout doesn't hold it against her big brother. 

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question