In Scorpions, how does Jamal evolve throughout the story?

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Jamal grows up, matures, and learns how the world works.  Jamal learns that it is easy to get drawn into the violence of gang life, and controlling it once you’re in it is not as easy as it seems.  Although he learns the ins and outs of running a street gang, using guns for intimidation and dealing drugs, he also learns more about himself: it is not the life for him.

Scorpions is the story of an inner-city youth who is trying to navigate a world of broken families, poverty, violence, drugs, and gangs.  Most of the changes in Jamal are subtle.  At the book’s opening, Jamal is already wise in the world.  He knows how to take care of his sister, the conditions of his brother’s jail sentence, and how to make a little food go a long way.

A major theme is friendship and loyalty, but the book also deals with making decisions. Gangs, guns, drugs, drug running, and violence are shown in such a way that readers see that they are decisions that lead only to tragedy. (enotes, themes and characters)

Jamal is in many ways a normal kid.  His best friend is Puerto Rican while he is black, but the racial issues do not bother him most of the time.  With his older brother in jail and money tight, Jamal has to be the man in the house.  Unfortunately, he also needs to take charge of the gang, The Scorpions, and run drugs even though he is only twelve.  

Jamal has a difficult time getting people to take him seriously as a gang leader.  He notes that, “long as I’m only twelve, they gonna keep messing with me” (p. 163).  His brother’s friend Mack responds:

“They ain’t gonna mess with you if they know you aren’t scared to use the piece.” (p. 163)

Thus begins Jamal’s education on using guns for intimidation.  In the end, Jamal decides that the gang and drug-running life is not for him.  Jamal survives the experience, but he is changed forever.

"Scorpions." Web. 05 May 2012. <>.


Myers, Walter Dean. Scorpions. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. Print.

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