“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – E.E. Cummings. This quote can be supported by any bildungsroman book (coming of age novel). The book, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a coming-of-age novel. This is a genre of books or movies that focus on the growth of a character from youth to adulthood. The character Jem in particular really grows up as a person, his morals and his ways of thinking also mature throughout the story.
Throughout the book, Jem matures into a young man who cares about other people and no longer fears little things. In his years of adolescence, he has witnessed and became exposed to many things that influenced his new way of thinking.
At the beginning of the book Jem, Scout, and Dill have a fear of the house that Boo Radley lives in. Since they were so young they believed rumors and they had many ways and methods to try to see if these rumors were true or not.
They imagined the things inside the house as dangerous even though they’ve never been in there. The three of them try to get inside the house and try to get Boo and his family to come out to see if anything they heard is true. Later in the book, Jem says that they should maybe stop bothering Boo since he seems to be harmless. By the end of the book, Jem uncovers the mystery of why Boo stays indoors.
“Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all this time” because he wants to stay inside” (Lee 227). It obviously took a while for Jem to realize this but the reason why he did is because of his growth. A boy of the age of 10 wouldn’t be able to figure this out, but by being patient and calm he figured it out.
Mrs. Dubose, a character introduced in Chapter 11, is described as an ignorant racist who insults Jem and Scout whenever they pass her house. One time when Mrs. Dubose was making rude comments about Atticus, Jem lashed out. The young boy cut down her flowers because he had enough of the insults. As a punishment, he had to read to Mrs. Dubose daily for a whole month. While Jem reads to her, she frequently corrects him and makes negative comments, this leads him to continuously complain about her to Atticus. Later on in the chapter, Mrs. Dubose passes away and leaves a gift for Jem. At first, Jem freaks out, but his father tells him to settle down and explains that she was actually a very brave and courageous person. Atticus says, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs. Dubose won all ninety-eight pounds of her. She broke her addiction to morphine, which was a very hard thing to do. She was the bravest person I ever knew” (Lee 112). He learns that even the unfriendly, ignorant Mrs. Dubose has positive characteristics. Jem’s childhood led him to believe all people as either good or bad. In this Chapter, Jem learns that individuals can have both good and bad qualities.
In addition to learning about others and their well-being, Jem shows courage which he learned from Mrs. Dubose. He has grown up to be more concerned for others’ safety, as he protects, defends, and helps many people throughout the second part of the book. He also has to be very bold and protect his sister when they are attacked by Bob Ewell. This was very brave and courageous of him since he is only 13, and he was fighting with a grown man. He was risking his own life dealing with a drunk man. He also told his sister to leave so she could protect herself. “Run, Scout! Run! Run! Jem screamed” (Lee 261). Even though he got hurt pretty badly, this was a big step in growing up. He also learns from his father that some battles are lost before one begins fighting, but still one must persevere and fight on.
Jem’s mind also grew as he became exposed to racism. He gets to see how terrible people can be. Since his father is defending a black man for a very serious trial, Jem and Scout get to witness a lot of racism. Jem is so young at the beginning of the book he didn’t know right from wrong and what could cause damage. As the trial moves forward Jem realizes how awful racism and the outside world is. He gets to witness how cruel people are to others just because of their ethnicity or race. Once Jem really gets exposed to how unjust people are, even people who are very educated and respected, he becomes shocked. When the narrator said, ” I shut my eyes. Judge Taylor was polling the jury: “Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty” I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each “guilty” was a separate stab between them” (211). Since he is older than his sister who may not fully understand what is going on, he has an understanding of how unfair the verdict is. This shows how Jem’s mind matured as his thoughts throughout the jury became very well developed.
At the beginning of the book, Jem was only 10. By the end of the book, he was 13. Many things happen in these years of adolescence. His whole state of thinking and the way he acts upon things improved tremendously. He realized why people are who they are and why they act the way they do. Jem has grown into a fine young man who realizes some things are worth fighting for. He demonstrates his own courage when he shows how brave he is as he defends things that are very controversial at the time. He was very concerned about others and always sees the right in things.
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