Character Study of Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird

Character Study of Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird

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In To Kill a Mockingbird Jem is Scout's older brother who acts as a protector and mentor when their father, Atticus, is not present. (Scout is the main character) Both of the children are moulded and shaped by their father Atticus, Jem more so than Scout, but this is probably down to his age, Atticus brings the children up to stand by their beliefs but to accept the beliefs and views of others, and to take a look at the way another person would see the situation. The teachings of Atticus have a profound impact on Jem. Jem is a role model for Scout, when Atticus is not around he acts in his stead. Here are a few qualities we see Jem develop through the course of the story.

Jem has a respect for all living creatures, a belief Atticus has instilled in him, Atticus is a firm believer in not killing animals unless absolutely necessary and we can see how Jem develops this quality in himself. When Jem and Scout receive air rifles Atticus tells Jem ?Shoot all the Bluejays you want, if you can hit ?em, but remember it?s a sin to kill a Mockingbird.? Atticus, in a roundabout sort of way, told Jem he could kill Bluejays because, they are pests and even though he doesn?t like killing animals he allows Jem to shoot at the Bluejays, but to kill a Mockingbird, who does nothing but help and please people, is not acceptable. We later see Jem shooting tin cans in the back yard despite the large numbers of Bluejays flying around him, which Scout thinks is stupid because you are allowed to shoot Bluejays so why shoot at the tin cans? He has the option to but decides he doesn?t have to kill the birds.

? When he gave us our air rifles Atticus wouldn?t teach us to shoot. Uncle Jack instructed us in rudiments thereof, he said Atticus wasn?t interested in guns*. Atticus said to Jem one day, ?I?d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you?ll go after birds. Shoot all the Bluejays you want, if you can hit ?em, but remember it?s a sin to kill a mocking-bird.??

*This is rather ironic seeing as Atticus turns out to be the best shot in Maycomb, he just doesn?t like using guns because he sees his gift for shooting as an unfair advantage over animals.

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? I went to the back yard and found Jem plugging away at a tin can, which seemed stupid with all the Bluejays around.?

Although Scout missed it this incident gives us a clear window into the maturing of Jem, Atticus told him he could shoot Bluejays but make sure not to kill a Mockingbird, but Jem realised he didn?t need to kill the birds. They may be a pest but Jem doesn?t have it to kill them he?d rather just shoot the cans. This concept of not killing is lost on Scout who later in the book goes to squash an insect, which unluckily for it got into her room, but Jem intervenes and tells her that the insect doesn?t deserve to be killed and releases it. These examples are quite mature acts for a boy of his age, most would have let Scout kill the bug or would have shot at the birds but thanks to Atticus Jem doesn?t feel the need. Side note: The Mockingbird is used as a metaphor in the book to describe Tom Johnson, he does nothing but help and does not deserve to be killed, sadly this moral is not picked up by the other residents of Maycomb.

Jem is both physically and morally courageous, let?s take for example the Jailhouse incident, after Scout jumped into the mob of angry farmers and got herself into a lot of trouble Atticus tells Jem to take Scout and Dill home. Jem promptly refuses, he knows why the men are there and he knows what they will do to Atticus, they are a Lynch-mob and will beat Atticus for protecting a black man accused of raping a white woman. Jem knows they will harm Atticus and he knows in his staying he may protect Atticus from being hurt, but there is a chance that these drunken farmers may have it within themselves to hurt him too. Yes, he is a child but these men are so angry that doesn?t matter they will harm him for obstructing their lynching. We can see their all-too-eagerness to get to Tom Robinson and force anyone in their way aside when one of the men grabs Jem by the collar, this is after Atticus? repeated instructions to him to go home one of the men offers to make him go home but without asking as nicely as Atticus. In Jem?s stubbornness Scout can see a resemblance to Atticus despite physically looking like his mother.

? ?Go home, Jem,? he said ?Take Scout and Dill home.? We were accustomed to prompt, if not always cheerful acquiescence to Atticus? instructions, but from the way he stood Jem was not thinking of budging.
?Go home, I said.?
Jem shook his head. As Atticus? fists went to his hips, so did Jem?s, and as they faced each other I could see little resemblance between them: Jem?s brown hair and eyes, his oval face and snug-fitting ears were our mother?s, contrasting oddly with Atticus? greying black hair and square-cut features, but they were somehow alike. Mutual defiance made them alike.
?Son, I said go home.?
Jem shook his head.
?I?ll send him home,? a burly man said, and grabbed Jem roughly by the collar. He yanked Jem nearly off his feet.?

With this incident it easy to see Atticus? influence on Jem, and teaching him about moral courage. Jem realises what is going to happen if he leaves, his father will be attacked if not killed, and stands his ground despite running the risk of getting into serious trouble. Thanks to his defiance Scout comes forth and talks to Mr. Cunningham and in the end the mob leave. As Atticus, Jem, Scout and Dill walk home Scout expects to see Atticus scalding Jem for his actions but sees him massaging Jem?s hair, which is his one sign of affection, Atticus is proud of his son for standing up for his beliefs.

Jem has a high level of emotional awareness not like Scout who is only learning to become emotional aware. Unlike Scout he doesn?t feel the need to find things about his father that he can brag to his friends about. After Atticus shot Tim Johnson Scout tells him she wants to tell everyone she knows that her father is the best shot in Maycomb County, Jem realises Atticus isn?t proud of his gift and tells her not to, there was a reason why he didn?t tell them about his shooting skills. The reason being that he doesn?t see it as a gift as such but an unfair advantage over animals and tries to use it as little as possible. Alongside his emotional intelligence we see his empathy, he thinks about what Atticus would think if his kids went around telling everyone their father was the best shot in Maycomb and concludes that he wouldn?t want them to do that and so without Atticus asking him he tells Scout not to do it.

?When we went home I told Jem we?d really have something to talk about at school on Monday. Jem turned on me.
?Don?t say anything about it, Scout.? He said
?What? I certainly am. Ain?t everybody?s daddy the deadest shot in Maycomb County.?
Jem said, ?I reckon if he?d wanted us to know it, he?da told us. If he was proud of it, he?da told us.?
?Maybe it just slipped his mind,? I said.
?Naw, Scout, it?s something you don?t understand. Atticus is real old, but I wouldn?t care if he couldn?t do anything?I wouldn?t care if he couldn?t do a blessed thing.??

Though possessing a high level of emotional intelligence, and a knowledge of racism that Scout lacks, Jem is confused as to why a jury could convict Tom Robinson despite the evidence given by Atticus. He believes in fair trials for all regardless of race, he hasn?t realised that in Maycomb the law sides with the Whites. It was impossible for that jury to acquit Tom because of the culture of Maycomb, this is a concept lost on Jem. He gets really upset about the verdict, he believed that Atticus had won the case and Tom would be free, in a perfect world this would have happened but it didn?t. He is confused.

'Atticus - ' said Jem bleakly.
'How could they do it, how could they?'
'I don't know, but they did it. They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it - seems that only children weep. Good night.'
Through the course of the book Jem matures a lot, he started the book with trying to get Boo Radley to leave his house by using various schemes. He started the book with a large amount of physical courage, if someone dared him to do something he would do it because he didn?t want to seem weak.

?Our first raid only came to pass because Dill bet Jem The Grey Ghost against two Tom Swifts that Jem wouldn?t get any farther than the Radley gate, In all his life, Jem had never declined a dare.?

Jem proceeds to run through the Radley yard and slap the side of the house. There are a few more incidents revealing Jem?s physical courage if not his stupidity. He decided to put a note under the shutters of the Radley house and was chased away by Mr. Radley, who shot at him, he had to leave his pants behind as he scrambled under the fence to escape and during the night decided to go back for them and so risked being shot at again. This is an idiotic idea, though someone may identify his pants might find him out there is no need to go and possibly get shot to save them.

Through this book we see a large change in Jem, from a little boy who played along with Scout, to a young man who looked over her and mentored her. When Scout and Walter Cunningham were fighting, he stepped in and broke up the fight before asking Walter to come to lunch with them, he acted like a true gentleman. He does things that Scout doesn?t understand, seeing as Scout is the narrator it makes the reader think about why he acted in such a way.

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