When does Jem lose his innocence in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Two events in the first part of the novel stand out as defining moments of an awakening within Jem. When Jem returns to the Radley fence to retrieve his lost pants following the children's raid on their neighbor's back porch, he finds them waiting for him--folded and crudely mended. He may not have understood the implications at that moment, but he must have realized that only Boo Radley could have done this. But it is the act by Boo's brother that completely robs Jem of his innocence. When Jem finds the secret knothole of the Radley oak sealed up, he questions Nathan about it. Boo's brother assures Jem that the oak is sick.

     "Tree's dying. You plug 'em with cement when they're sick. You ought to know that, Jem."  (Chapter 7)

But when Jem asks Atticus about it, his father points out that

"... the leaves, they're all green and full, no brown patches anywhere--
     "That tree's as healthy as you are, Jem."  (Chapter 7)

Jem not only discovers that adults lie when it is necessary, but that Nathan's reason for sealing the knothole--the place where Boo's gifts are found and the children's only way of communicating with him--is strictly out of meanness.


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