Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Jem Finch

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Extended Character Analysis

Scout’s older brother, Jeremy "Jem" Finch, is only nine years old when the novel opens. In temperament, he is more mature and thoughtful than his impulsive younger sister. Initially, Jem acts as both Scout’s playmate and mentor, often serving as a bridge between her and the adult world. As Jem is four years older than Scout, he has a more nuanced understanding of the prejudice and racism in Maycomb and, as a result, is more emotionally affected by it. Harper Lee uses Jem’s awakening to adulthood to mirror the townspeople's realization of their intolerance. As the novel progresses, Jem begins to retreat from the childish games that he and Scout used to enjoy, becoming moodier and more withdrawn. Despite this increasing worldliness, Jem’s pure admiration for Atticus and intense faith in justice leaves him unprepared for the outcome of Tom Robinson's trial, and he is utterly devastated by the jury's decision. Though Jem feels disillusioned with Maycomb in the aftermath of the trial, he still retains his inner goodness and bravely attempts to defend his little sister against Bob Ewell’s attack. By the end of the novel, Atticus is confident that Jem will eventually be able to move on from his disappointment in the trial and “be himself again.”


  • “You know something, Scout? I’ve got it all figured out, now. I’ve thought about it a lot lately and I’ve got it figured out. There’s four kinds of folks in the world. There’s the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there’s the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes.”
  • "It's like bein' a caterpillar in a cocoon, that's what it is. . . . Like somethin' asleep wrapped up in a warm place. I always thought Maycomb folks were the best folks in the world, least that's what they seemed like."
  • "That's what I thought, too . . . when I was your age. If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other? If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time . . . it's because he wants to stay inside."
  • "Atticus says you can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family, an' they're still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge 'em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don't."
  • "Jem wanted Dill to know once and for all that he wasn’t scared of anything: 'It’s just that I can’t think of a way to make him come out without him gettin’ us.' Besides, Jem had his little sister to think of. When he said that, I knew he was afraid."

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Scout Finch


Atticus Finch