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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Which line from Chapter 8 of To Kill a Mockingbird shows Jem believes he and Scout are equals to their townsfolk?

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Chapter 8 of To Kill a Mockingbird details a neighborhood fire, in which Scout and Jem help out, under the supervision of their father, Atticus. By the end of the chapter after the children have been up much of the night.

The fire causes several neighbors, including Miss Maudie and Mr. Avery, to participate in trying to save Miss Maudie's place. During the scuffle, Boo Avery puts a blanket around Jem and by the end of the chapter Jem's snowman—a caricature of a neighbor—has melted. But Miss Maudie, true to form, puts it in perspective. Although she is proud of her garden flowers, she tells the children now that they are gone, there is tremendous opportunity to plant azaleas instead.

At the very end of the chapter, Jem says that Miss Maudie should hire a colored man to help her recover her home and yard. Then, quickly, he asserts, "Or Scout'n me, we can help you."

Jem is ready to help during the emergency and in almost the same breath equates himself (and his sister) with a "colored man." Earlier in the chapter Jem begins to tell Atticus about how Boo Radley helped him and "he ain't even harmed us, he ain't even hurt us" which is also telling. Jem is ready to treat all neighbors as human beings first.

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Jem offers to do work a hired man would normally do.

During this chapter, Miss Maudie’s house catches fire.  It is a terrible blow for poor Miss Maudie, but she takes it like a real trooper.  It is part of her personality to accept things as they come, and act as a pillar of strength.

All of the town comes out to help Miss Maudie.  The children are there watching.  Later, Jem and Scout come to visit Miss Maudie, who has been worried about her flowers more than her burnt house.  She says that she has been out since six o’clock.  Jem notices that her hands are “brown with dirt and dried blood.”  His response is telling.

"You've ruined 'em," said Jem. "Why don't you get a colored man?"  There was no note of sacrifice in his voice when he added, "Or Scout'n'me, we can help you." (Ch. 8)

Note:  You will find this at the very end of the chapter.

Miss Maudie instead tells them to deal with their snowman, which Jem says will be no trouble at all.  He says they can rake up the “Morphodite” in a jiffy.  At this she laughs hysterically.

Jem’s comment shows that he does not consider himself above the African Americans in the community, or anyone else.  He tells her he can hire someone, or that he will help her do the same work.  Atticus has raised him and Scout to believe that they are good neighbors and the equals of everyone.

There is another example in this chapter of Jem not believing he is above anyone else.  When he notices the blanket on Scout’s shoulders, he responds by worrying about Boo Radley.  He does not want Atticus to return the blanket, because he does not want Boo to get in trouble for putting it there, since Nathan would not approve of Boo's interaction with them.

"...Mr. Nathan put cement in that tree, Atticus, an' he did it to stop us findin' things- he's crazy, I reckon, like they say, but Atticus, I swear to God he ain't ever harmed us, he ain't ever hurt us …(Ch. 8)

Atticus agrees to not return the blanket due to Jem’s pleading.  The fact that Jem considers Boo Radley a friend and not just a creepy neighbor or a town joke shows that he does not consider himself above Boo. He is showing compassion for the man.  He is aware that Boo took a risk in giving Scout the blanket, and he is returning the favor.

Each of these examples show Jem's maturity and, like the snowman, they show that he is a good judge of people.  Jem carefully watches and understands the people around him.  He is not egotistical and does not take advantage of the privileges of his class.

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