What is the Significance of Jem in the novel “To Kill A Mockingbird”?
To Kill A Mockingbird, written in 1958-1960 by Harper Lee explores the irrationality of attitudes to race and class in the ‘Deep South’ in 1930s America. This bildungsroman presents in a stark reality the challenges facing civil rights activists, as Harper Lee sets out to bring racism and the fight against it clearly to the reality of a modern readership.
Jem, the son of the lawyer Atticus Finch is caught up in this world of racist thoughts, words and actions fuelled by the Great Depression. Racism and injustice towards black Americans is synonymous with the Southern States of America in the 1930s; an example of this being the 1932 Scottsborough Trial in Alabama - where this novel is set; in which 3 men were accused and found guilty of raping two white women, without any clear evidence to suggest such actions took place. They were later acquitted however, Harper Lee uses this novel and indeed Jem to provide an insightful commentary into the unjust, undeserved, and scathing opinions that the white town folk of Maycombe, a small town in South Alabama, readily acted upon.
Jem is used by Harper Lee as an embodiment of innocence and at the same time as a narrative vehicle to highlight childish irrationalities; and how the racist views so common in the Southern States, and especially in places such as Maycombe, are little more than the irrational prejudices that Jem possesses.
Atticus has raised Jem to be the way he is; moral, socially conscientious, and intellectually free as seen on page 308, “You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them” . The novel represents Jem’s journey of realisation that his childish prejudices aren’t built on anything substantial rather they are simply an extension of what he has heard and see people say and do. Harper Lee seems to draw parallels between Jem’s prejudices and the virtually childish and ill-considered racist...
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