Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What are three quotes from Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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There are numerous quotes that illustrate how Jem grows and matures throughout this story. These include Jem's response to Mrs. Dubose, his conversations with Atticus concerning racism and justice, and the time he stops Scout from killing a bug.

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To Kill A Mockingbird involves the maturation of the two Finch children, Jem and Scout. By looking at several quotations of Jem's, we can see how his character evolves and grows up throughout this novel.

One of the first times we see Jem stand up for himself and his family occurs in chapter 11. In response to Mrs. Dubose insulting Atticus for his defense of Tom Robinson, Jem can't help but respond even though Atticus had specifically instructed his son not to respond to the old woman's insults; Jem's pride won't allow him to take it on the chin. At this point in the novel, we can see that Jem is developing an identity of his own, but he still has a lot of growing up to do. Later, when Jem arrives at Mrs. Dubose's house to read to her as part of his punishment for losing his cool and destroying her flowers, Mrs. Dubose takes the opportunity to insult Scout's appearance. Despite the fearful shaking of his knees, which doesn't go unnoticed by Scout, Jem replies that

My sister ain't dirty and I ain't scared of you.

In chapter 23, we see just how much Jem is concerned with the influence of racism on the legal system. Jem and Atticus discuss this to great length and Jem grapples with some tough concepts. This is illustrated when he says that,

No sir, they oughta do away with juries. He wasn't guilty in the first place and they said he was.

At the start of chapter 25, Jem stops his sister from killing a roly-poly bug. Scout asks him why and he responds by saying,

Because they don't bother you.

This short reply illustrates that Jem has taken Atticus's message about killing innocent creatures, such as mockingbirds, to heart. Scout reckons that Jem is just going through a phase, yet it seems to the reader that Jem is maturing into a thoughtful and compassionate man, much like his father.

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Here are three of my favorite quotes from Jem.

After Jem has lost his pants in the Radley fence, he decides to go back after them in the middle of the night. The house is still a scary place to the children, and Scout tries to talk Jem out of going. But Jem has his reasons.

"I--it's like this, Scout," he muttered. "Atticus ain't ever whipped me since I can remember. I want to keep it that way."  (Chapter 6)

After Aunt Alexandra has refused to allow Walter Cunningham Jr. to visit the Finch house, telling Scout that "he--is--trash, that's why...," Jem shows a true act of brotherly kindness toward his sobbing sister. "He caught me by the shoulders, put his arm around me," and said:

    "Have a chew, Scout." Jem dug into his pocket and extracted a Tootsie Roll. It took a few minutes to work the candy into a comfortable wad inside my jaw.  (Chapter 23)

Later, when Jem and Scout discuss Aunt Alexandra's passion for her "Old Family stuff's foolishness," Jem reaches a conclusion about their mysterious neighbor.

"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."  (Chapter 23) 

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I like this quote from chapter 3 where Jem invites Walter Cunningham home for lunch after Scout beats him up. It shows Jem's kind heart and his maturing:

Jem said, "Our daddy's a friend of your daddy's. Scout here, she's crazy-she won't fight  you any more."

After the trial and Tom is found guilty, Jem struggles to understand how the people of Maycomb could have done such a terrible thing. This quote shows the pain Jem experiences as he continues to mature and realize the adult world is not what he thought it was:

"It's like bein' a caterpillar in a cocoon, that's what it is," he said. "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."

He is talking to Scout and Miss Maudie. This is from chapter 22.

In chapter 23, there is another cool quote that Jem says when he is trying to comfort Scout and convince her that Aunt Alexandra doesn't really hate her. They are trying to figure out what she means about their family, how their family is different from the Cunninghams, etc.:

"That's what I thought, too," he said at last, "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."

It shows that both Scout and Jem are learning the hard lessons of life.

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