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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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How do Scout and Jem lose their innocence in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Jem loses his childhood innocence in To Kill a Mockingbird when he witnesses the racial injustice of Tom Robinson's wrongful conviction.

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A loss of innocence can happen through one experience, but there is usually a buildup that occurs beforehand which illuminates more and more of the world for a child to see. Over the course of the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem and Scout face several challenges which ultimately...

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lead to their loss of innocence and early-onset adulthood.

One of the ways that they loose their innocence is through the actions of their father. Once Atticus is selected to be Tom Robinson's defense attorney, Atticus becomes the talk of the town. The kids are then caught in the crossfire as people in Maycomb County take sides. This includes neighbors, peers, strangers, and even family members.

Another instance when the children's innocence is shaken is when they attend church with Calpurnia. While Atticus is away, Calpurnia takes the kids to her church which is run by the Black community. The kids watch Lula yell at Calpurnia for being there. However, the rest of the community supports Atticus and the kids and welcome them with open arms. While the kids don't fully understand this experience, it is a crucial part of their maturation.

Perhaps the most significant event that degrades Scout and Jem's innocence is their experience with the trial and its outcome. The kids sneak into the courtroom and watch most of the trial take place. They see the evidence which suggests Tom couldn't possibly be guilty, and they suffer the blow when Tom is sentenced. It seems Jem is most impacted by this experience, illuminating his loss of innocence. When the family gets home, Jem cries and asks Atticus how this could have happened. This experience changes his life.

Then there is the attack that Scout and Jem suffer. At the end of the novel, Scout and Jem are attacked by Mr. Ewell on their way home from the pageant. Jem is badly injured, but Scout manages to get away with a few cuts and scratches. While this experience adds to their loss of innocence, Scout is impacted in a different way. Realizing that Boo Radley saved them is eye-opening. Like the trial for Jem, this moment greatly impacts Scout's view of the world.

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Jem and Scout's loss of innocence comes when Tom Robinson is convicted of raping Mayella Ewell, even though Atticus proved in the courtroom that he could not have perpetrated the act. Both children sat through the trial and heard all the evidence. They knew that Robinson, with his withered arm, was incapable of having punched and assaulted Mayella as described. Nevertheless, the white jury, even knowing they were condemning an innocent men, upheld the unwritten Southern code that a white is always believed over a black in a court of law, no matter what.

It was a shock to the innocence of both children to learn maintaining white supremacy was more important to their community than sparing an innocent man. They saw that the world can often be a cruel and unjust place, and that adults will put maintaining their own power and advantage above their integrity. Self interest can easily trump truth.

Surprisingly, even though he is older, Jem takes this turn of events much harder than Scout. However, he is entering adolescence, a time of questioning and turmoil for a young person. As he is readying himself to join the adult world, he has to face the shock that it is not the ideal place he might have imagined as a child.

The children also experience a loss of innocence when Bob Ewell tries to kill them. Again, they are confronted in a vivid way with the reality that the innocent can be made to pay for other people's crimes.

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Jem and Scout both lose their childhood innocence after witnessing Tom Robinson become a victim of racial injustice when he is wrongly convicted of assaulting and raping Mayella Ewell. During the trial, Jem believes that there is no way that Atticus can lose the case. While Jem takes into consideration the fact that there is no circumstantial evidence and factors in the Ewells' conflicting testimonies, he fails to consider the jury's racial bias.

In chapter 21, Judge Taylor reads the guilty verdict and Jem bursts into tears. Jem repeatedly says, "It ain’t right" to his father on their walk home and is visibly upset at the outcome of the trial (Lee, 215). Following his loss of innocence, Jem becomes jaded towards his prejudiced hometown and tells Miss Maudie,

"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" (Lee, 219).

In contrast to Jem's negative reaction to losing his childhood innocence, Scout does not become jaded and begins to perceive her community in a different light. Following the trial, Scout develops perspective and begins to notice the hypocrisy and racism throughout Maycomb for the first time. Overall, both siblings lose their childhood innocence after witnessing racial injustice firsthand, which dramatically alters their perception of Maycomb's community.

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TKAM is a "coming of age" story, meaning that in its pages, the main character reaches a point of understanding or maturity. In this case, Scout and Jem come to an understanding of society's darker side.

Because they become exposed to the goings-on surrounding Tom Robinson's trial and the racially-motivated conflicts that ensue as a result, both characters are forced to learn very adult lessons.

What's more, when the children are attacked by Bob Ewell, Scout loses the perception that all adults are kind and competent toward children. The idea that an adult would attack a child shatters some of her naivete as she learns this lesson.

In the end, Scout and Jem have both made many "real-world" realizations, and this is what causes their loss of childlike innocence in the novel.

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The most important theme of Harper Lee's novel is the exploration of human nature - both the good and bad.  Through the eyes of Scout, the reader is able to see the world of Maycomb through the eyes of an innocent child.  At the beginning of the novel, both Jem and Scout see the world from this childhood perspective because neither have seen evil, so they believe that people are essentially good.  The miscarriage of justice in the case of Tom Robinson’s trial and the subsequent racial backlash towards the Finch family are some of the first moments in which Jem and Scout are introduced to a very different and cruel Maycomb.  The ultimate act of evil that Jem and Scout face is their brutal attack at the hands of Bob Ewell.  For these two children, realizing that an adult could hurt a child is most surprising. It is interesting to note that while Jem becomes ultimately disillusioned with the state of affairs in Maycomb, Scout retains her basic faith in the good of people, telling Jem one evening that “No…I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks” (Chapter 23).

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How does Scout experience loss of innocence in To Kill A Mockingbird?

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout has a number of experiences that cause her to grow up sooner than some other children. She has a good support system, but one highlight of the novel is Scout's narration as she learns about the realities of 1930s Alabama.

The lynch mob scene outside of the Maycomb courthouse in chapter 15 is a good example of Scout learning things that strip her of her innocence. She follows her father, only to find people she has known her whole life gathered in a show of intimidation and violence.

The farcical trial and wrongful conviction of Tom Robinson for the rape of Mayella Ewell is another powerful example of Scout's loss of innocence. Scout is a child, and even she could see by the testimony and evidence that Tom was innocent. It was obvious. She had to watch as twelve people from her town ignored the facts and convicted a man because of his skin color.

The murder of Tom Robinson hits Scout and the rest of the Finch family with unparalleled force. Tom is shot many times while making a desperate attempt at escape. Scout is forced to confront the true evil of racism and prejudice. Her reaction to Tom's obituary is telling:

Then Mr. Underwood's meaning became clear: Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed (chapter 25).

The novel takes place at an impressionable time in Scout's life. The events of the book undoubtedly strip her of her innocence, but they also teach her valuable lessons about standing up to injustices.

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How does Scout experience loss of innocence in To Kill A Mockingbird?

Similar to Jem and Dill, Scout loses her childhood innocence during the Tom Robinson trial after she witnesses racial injustice firsthand when Judge Taylor reads the guilty verdict. Similar to her brother and Dill, Scout becomes aware of her community's overt prejudice and no longer views Maycomb as a quintessential, comfortable small town. Following the outcome of the Tom Robinson trial, Scout begins to notice the hypocrisy of her fellow community members and starts to question their prejudiced ideology. Scout also develops an understanding of her father's mission to challenge the prejudiced citizens and fully grasps the importance of protecting innocent, defenseless beings.

Unlike Jem, who becomes jaded with Maycomb's community, Scout simply develops perspective and begins to accurately perceive the hypocritical racist citizens. After Tom's verdict, Scout becomes aware of Mrs. Merriweather's hypocritical nature during Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle, and she questions Miss Gates's hypocrisy regarding her comments during a Current Events activity in class. After reading Mr. Underwood's editorial, Scout also understands that Tom Robinson was guilty the second he walked into the courtroom simply because he was black. Following the Tom Robinson trial, Scout also witnesses the importance of protecting innocent, defenseless beings by watching Atticus valiantly defend Tom Robinson in front of the prejudiced jury and community. Overall, one could argue that Scout loses her childhood innocence, along with Jem and Dill, after witnessing Tom's wrongful conviction. After witnessing racial injustice firsthand, Scout gains valuable insight into the nature of her prejudiced community and begins to perceive her neighbors differently.

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How does Scout experience loss of innocence in To Kill A Mockingbird?

Scout, one of the main characters in Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird", experiences loss of innocence as she grows up through the book.  One such experience occurs in chapter two, where she is defending Walter Cunningham when Miss Caroline offers him a quarter to pay for his lunch.  She explains that Walter's family wouldn't be able to pay back the quarter, which Miss Caroline took as Scout demeaning Walter and his family

Another loss of innocence occurs when a group of school children are defaming Atticus, Scout's father, because he is defending Tom Robinson, a black man.  Racial tension, strife, and disparity abound in the juvenile version of a mob, while Scout doesn't see anything wrong with her father's defense of a black man.

Thirdly, in chapter twenty six, Scout understands hatred for Hitler and Hitler's Germany in it's persecution of Jews, but she doesn't understand her teacher's equal hatred for black people as an equal stance.  In her eyes, the two situations are unequal.

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

There are two specific moments in To Kill a Mockingbird that significantly affect Jem's childhood innocence. The first moment takes place in chapter 7 when Jem attempts to leave a note for the anonymous gift giver. Jem senses that Boo Radley may be the person leaving gifts in the knothole of the tree and is excited about the possibility of communicating with him.

However, Jem is unable to leave the note in the tree, because Nathan Radley filled it in with cement. When Jem asks Nathan why he filled the knothole with cement, Nathan lies and tells Jem that the tree is dying. When Jem asks his father about Nathan's methods, Atticus assures him that the tree is perfectly healthy. That evening, Scout notices that Jem has been crying by himself on the porch. Jem's tears reveal his loss of innocence: he recognizes for the first time that adults are willing to lie and is upset that he will not have the opportunity to interact with Boo.

The second scene that depicts Jem's loss of innocence takes place towards the end of the Tom Robinson trial. Jem is sure that Atticus has won the case and even tells Reverend Sykes, "Don't see how any jury could convict on what we heard." Jem's comments reveal his immaturity and childhood innocence: he does not yet see the role racism plays in his society. Jem thus loses his innocence when Tom Robinson is convicted. Immediately after Tom Robinson is found guilty, Jem bursts into tears and continually says that the outcome of the trial is unfair. Jem is completely shaken after witnessing racial injustice firsthand and becomes outraged by Maycomb's prejudiced justice system.

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How does Boo Radley lose his innocence in To Kill a Mockingbird?

A rather inscrutable character, Boo Radley has a past that leaves much to conjecture. For instance, the story of Boo's having stabbled his father's leg and Mrs. Radley's screaming in the street that Arthur "was killing them all" is dubious because of its narrator, Miss Stephanie Crawford, the "neighborhood scold" and because Boo was merely taken to jail and then released into the custody of his family, who refused to send him to the state mental hospital, Bryce, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

After this incident, Boo becomes a recluse. Apparently, he watches out the window and observes Jem, Scout, and Dill in their surreptitious activities. Vicariously, then, he begins to participate in some of their actions; he mends Jem's torn pants, and places little gifts in the knothole of a large tree until his brother Nathan seals the hole.  It is not until Boo is disturbed by Bob Ewell's attack upon the Jem that Boo appears to recognize the evil that men do, thus losing his ingenuousness. Having grown to care for the children with whom he has tried to interact, Boo rushes to help Jem and, in so doing, arrests Ewell in his reprehensible act, stabbing him to death.

Yet, Boo remains a "mockingbird," an innocent of society who intends no harm. Moreover, Sheriff Tate understands that it's "a sin to kill a mockingbird" as he explains what he will attest about the incident and telling Atticus,

"To my way of think', Mr. Finch, taking the one man who's done you and this town a great service an' draggin' him with his shy ways into the limelight--to me, that a sin. It's a sin and I'm not about to have it on my head..."

Therefore, Boo Radley loses his naivete of perception on mankind--if he even has it when he confronts and kills Bob Ewell; however, he does not lose his innocence of soul as he remains a "mockingbird." 

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What are some ways in which Jem loses his innocence in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, one way in which Jem loses his innocence is by witnessing Tom Robinson's jury deliver a very unfair verdict. The unfairness of the verdict brought Jem to tears while frequently saying, "It ain't right," walking with Atticus on the way home from the trial. Not only does the verdict enable Jem to see for the first time that evil exists in the world, such as injustice, it also enables him to see just how much people have a tendency to hate each other. Jem grapples with understanding why people hate each other as a result of his loss of innocence.

We see Jem grapple with people's hatred in Chapter 23, the day after the trial. In Chapter 23, Aunt Alexandra angers Scout by calling Walter Cunningham "trash" and forbidding her to play with him after school, and Jem leads the sobbing Scout out of the room. While in Jem's room, Scout and Jem converse about differences between people. Scout protests against the idea that there are different "kinds of folks in the world" and that those differences are marked by differences in levels of education. Instead, Scout insists that "there's just one kind of folks. Folks." Jem argues that he used to think the same way as Scout but has since needed to understand why so many people in the world hate each other, as we see in his following speech:

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? (Ch. 23)

While Scout is correct in asserting that all people are the same, Jem is also correct in asserting that people see differences in each other, and those differences widely have to do with differences in education level. Scout's perspective shows how naive and optimistic she still is, whereas Jem's perspective shows he is developing a deeper understanding of the ways in which people treat each other. His need to come to terms with people's hatred and to find an explanation for it shows that he is no longer naively optimistic like Scout; he has instead lost his innocence due to witnessing people's hatred and its consequences.

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How does Scout lose her innocence on the first day of school in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Scout has long looked forward to attending school, enviously watching Jem and his friends on the playground.

I never looked forward more to anything in my life... I longed to join them.  (Chapter 3)

But by the end of the first day, Scout doesn't even want to go back, begging Atticus to let her be home-schooled just as he was. Scout is by far the brightest student in the class, one of the few who can read; she can also write cursive, taught by Calpurnia. But her inexperienced new teacher, Miss Caroline, is fresh out of college and full of progressive ideas about education. She criticizes Scout for already knowing how to read and write, blaming Atticus for being a bad teacher. The teacher refuses to pay attention to Scout's suggestions about why Walter Cunningham Jr. has no school money, and she ends up being "whipped" and sent to the corner. Scout takes out her frustrations on Walter by "rubbing his nose in the dirt" of the school playground, and then is punished by Calpurnia when she is rude to Walter at dinner in the Finch house. School is no better in the afternoon, when Miss Caroline is brought to tears by the lice-ridden Burris Ewell. Scout explains the events of the day to Atticus, who refuses to allow her to give up. He suggests a compromise--

"If you'll concede the necessity of going to school, we'll go on reading every night just as we always have. Is it a bargain?"  (Chapter 3

Scout agrees, and then Atticus provides her with some advice about tolerating others, particularly Miss Caroline.

"You'll never understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."  (Chapter 3)

For Scout, school never reaches the great expectations she has imagined, and

     The remainder of my schooldays were no more auspicious than the first.  (Chapter 4)

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How do the characters in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird lose their childhood innocence?

One way in which the children in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird lose their childhood innocence is by being exposed to social injustice as a result of racism. Jem in particular is so disheartened to learn of the existence of social injustice that he feels disillusioned.

In his state of childhood innocence, Jem naively believed that people, especially Maycomb's people, were inherently good. However, witnessing Tom Robinson's trial showed him that the opposite is really the truth, especially when people hold prejudiced beliefs such as racist beliefs. Watching the trial, Jem was convinced beyond a doubt his father would win the case since all evidence pointed to Robinson's innocence, not his guilt. The most convincing evidence is the fact that Mayella had been bruised on the right side of her face, which could have only been accomplished by a left-handed man facing her, whereas Robinson has been crippled in his left arm and hand since he was a child. But, despite this evidence, the jury returns with a guilty verdict, and Jem is crushed to the point of tears. Later, the day after the trial, Jem confesses to Miss Maudie how disillusioned he feels about Maycomb's people:

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. (Ch. 22)

In other words, Jem is saying that whereas he once saw Maycomb as full of good, decent people, he now sees Maycomb's people as predominantly evil due to their racism. Jem would not have this perception if he had not lost his childhood innocence. Though Miss Maudie makes Jem feel a bit better by convincing him that more people tried to help Robinson than he realizes, Jem remains very angered by the social injustices he witnessed.

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