Maturity in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

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The book To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee, is considered to be a timeless classic that deals with such sensitive themes such as: prejudice, human dignity, social classes, and maturity. Maturity, that word has a different meaning for all of us. Maturity as I see it is an understanding that comes to people with experience and not age but the two usually seem to go together, but not always. Many people talk about the experiences that Scout goes through and the maturity that she achieves in the book but they don’t pay attention to the other characters that “grow up” or mature in the story.

The next most obvious person in the book that drastically matures is Jem. At the beginning of the book Jem is much like Scout in that he has the innocence of a young child. For example Jem tells Scout and Dill various made-up stories about Boo Radley to satisfy his need for excitement in his life and for the childish need to scare Scout and Dill. His immaturity is also mirrored when he makes up a game in which he puts Boo’s “… life’s history on display for the edification of the neighborhood.” After that he shows his lack of being able to control his temper and lack of respect when he destroys Miss Dubose’s camellias. There is no doubt that Jem was immature at the start of this book but as the book progresses we see a drastic change in him.

Jem begins to mature, or understand life more, after Scout, Dill and himself enter the Radley’s yard and attempt to peek through the shutters. He loses his pants and decides to go back for them he justifies doing this by saying, “Atticus ain’t never whipped me since I can remember. I wanna keep it that way.” There is an understanding or maturity in what he says there. Atticus would whip him because of the fact that Jem had been told numerous times to leave the Radleys alone and by confessing to Atticus that he had lost his pants while trying to escape the Radley’s yard, Atticus would find out that Jem had disobeyed him yet again. Jem could not allow something he did to lower the opinion that Atticus had of him. So Jem, with his new understanding, knew he had to get his pants back before Atticus could find out that he lost them, or Atticus would whip him and by doing so express his disappointment in Jem.
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