What are two examples (quotations) of Jem's innocence in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Two examples of Jem's innocence are in chapter 5 and chapter 21 of To Kill a Mockingbird.

In chapter 5 Dill and Jem devise a plan to communicate with Boo Radley by attaching a note to the line of a fishing pole and placing the note on a window sill. While Jem is attempting this act, Dill holds a bell that he will ring if anyone is coming towards them. Soon thereafter, Scout hears Dill frantically ringing the bell in Atticus's face. Having headed home for a file he had forgotten to take with him that morning, Atticus has caught Jem in the act of trying to send a note to Boo. When he scolds the children to leave the Radleys alone and not to play "an asinine game" or ridicule anyone in the street through play-acting, Jem interrupts,

We weren't makin' fun of him, we weren't laughin' at him . . . we were just—" 
"So that was what you were doing, wasn't it?"
"Makin' fun of him?"
"No," said Atticus, "putting his life's history on display for the edification of the neighborhood."
Jem seemed to swell a little. "I didn't say we were doin' that, I didn't say it!"
Atticus grinned dryly. "You just told me," he said. (Ch.5)

In his innocence, Jem is tricked into revealing what he has been doing. As he tries to prove his lack of guilt for the charges, he defends himself by listing what he and Dill have not done, omitting only the charge which Atticus surmises. Angry at Atticus's cleverness, he shouts after his father who walks back to his office, but is out of hearing range, "I thought I wanted to be a lawyer but I ain't so sure now!"

In chapter 21 Jem suffers the loss of his belief in justice. In his innocence, Jem believes in absolutes. If the law is written and the courts have proper procedures followed and positive proof is given regarding the guilt or innocence of the defendant, then a jury of twelve men should act with integrity and vote for the verdict that is just. So, even though he has been previously alerted to the hatred among some of the townspeople and the visceral feelings of the lynch mob, Jem is idealistic and innocent enough that he believes the jury to be rational men who will base their verdict solely on the evidence.

At the courthouse, while the jury is out deliberating the verdict, a smiling and confident Jem remarks to Pastor Sykes: " . . . don't fret, we've won it. . . . Don't see how any jury could convict on what we heard." (Ch.21) However, the wise and experienced Reverend Sykes, who himself suffers injustice under Jim Crow, cautions Jem to not be so confident: "I ain't ever seen any jury decide in favor of a colored man over a white man . . . " (Ch. 21)

Sadly, Reverend Sykes proves to be right. Jem is brought to tears over the injustice of the verdict, his faith in the legal system shattered and his innocence lost. No longer can he have faith that members of a jury, who swear to do their legal duty, will be forthright.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One example of Jem's innocence can be found in Chapter 7 following the sealing of the children's secret knothole. Jem naturally believed Nathan Radley when he told Jem that he was cementing the tree because it was diseased. After all, Boo's brother was an adult and should be trusted. However, Jem learned from Atticus that the tree was perfectly healthy, and Jem soon realized that he had been lied to. Jem saw that Nathan's true reason was simply to prevent Boo from making any further contact with the children.

He stood there until nightfall, and I waited for him. When we went in the house, I saw he had been crying; his face was dirty in the right places, but I thought it odd that I had not heard him.  (Scout, Chapter 7)

Another example can be found when Jem discovers Atticus' marksmanship skills. Both children had come to the conclusion that Atticus was "feeble" with no special skills. Jem's discovery that "One-Shot" Finch was the best shot in the county opened his eyes to new possibilities of his father's character.

"I reckon if he'd wanted us to know it, he'da told us. If he was proud of it, he'da told us. 
"Naw, Scout, it's something you wouldn't understand..."  (Jem, Chapter 10)

hallzy13 | Student

I'm trying to find the same thing, actually. The only example I can find  is at the beginning of chapter 22 when Jem cries because Tom Robinson was found guilty, even though everyone knows he was innocent. Jem was innocent enough to think that Tom had a chance of winning even though he is black and the Ewells' are white.

hope this helps a little:)

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question