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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, what events and passages show Jem and Scout's innocence and belief in people's goodness?

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One particular passage in the conclusion of Chapter 23 addresses Jem's and Scout's attitudes toward people. After enduring her Aunt Alexandra's hateful comments about her friend Walter, Scout tells Jem that she thinks Walter is just fine, implying that Alexandra is wrong in judging people according to economic status or family background. According to Scout, " . . . there's just one kind of folks. Folks."

Jem, however, no longer accepts this view of human nature:

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.

From this conversation, it seems clear that Scout remains idealistic about humn nature, her innocence intact. Jem, however, has undergone a loss of innocence, largely the result of watching the hatred and injustice revealed in his own neighbors by Tom Robinson's trial. Jem no longer believes in the goodness of all people. He has witnessed too much cruelty to sustain that view, and he recognizes this change in himself.

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