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"To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee: How Jem and Scout matured throughout the novel

By McCheaty Jan 02, 2007 827 Words
To Kill a Mockingbird: "The Timeless Classic of Growing Up, and the Human Dignity That Unites Us All." Harper Lee demonstrated both the harsh and the happy moments a brother and sister, Jem and Scout, encountered growing up. As the years went by, the two of them witnessed some events that taught them many significant life lessons. Two of those lessons were about kindness and responsibility. As Jem matures in the novel, the events that occur in the small Southern town of Maycomb affect him more than his little sister.

During the summers, when Dill would come to visit, Jem was dared to touch the Radleys' house. From that point on, Dill and Jem were always making plans about getting Boo Radley to come out of his house. They made many rumours about Arthur (Boo) Radley and how he stabbed his father with a pair of scissors. They thought Arthur was crazy because he never came outside. Not knowing why Boo never left his house at first, Jem, Dill and Scout tried many cruel things like trying to slip a letter into the Radley house using a fishing pole. Atticus, Jem's dad, told them many times to leave the Radleys alone but they refused to listen. They even went into the Radleys' yard to try and get a look at Boo through the window and Jem came close to being shot by Mr. Nathan Radley, Boo's brother. After being told many times by Atticus, Jem finally realised that Arthur Radley had his reasons not to leave his house. When Jem's Aunt Alexandra came to live with Jem, Atticus and Scout, she wasn't very nice towards Scout, but even then, Jem always told his sister to be respectful. "Don't do that Scout. Set him out on the back steps." Jem was speaking of an insect Scout was planning to squash. Jem didn't want to be cruel to insects nor animals. The most important event that helped Jem become kinder was when Atticus lost his case against the Ewells. Jem knew that Tom Robinson was innocent, and he thought that it was unfair that Tom was being accused of a crime he did not commit.

Scout, being younger than her brother, didn't realise how cruel she had been to Arthur Radley until the end of the novel. She gets involved in a lot of fights with classmates, friends, and even family members. One day at school, Scout's third grade teacher, Miss Gates, was discussing how bad a man Adolf Hitler was. Once she got home, Scout asked her father about what had happened that day and his answer was that it's not right to hate anyone. But what Scout didn't tell her father was that while she was leaving the courtroom after the Tom Robinson case, she had heard Miss Gates saying the following quote about black people: "It's time somebody taught 'em a lesson, they were gettin' way above themselves..." What Scout didn't understand was why it was wrong for Hitler to be cruel against others but it was right for Miss Gates to be cruel against black people. By the end of the novel, when Scout finally meets Arthur Radley, she is very nice to him, and she finally realises why he couldn't come out of his house during the day. Using all of her father's advice, Scout learns that kindness earns you respect and friendship.

Throughout the novel, Jem learns how to be more of a responsible person. It may not seem like it at times, but Jem is always taking care of his sister. As he grows up, he begins to follow in his father's footsteps, acting more like an adult. Jem doesn't learn this important lesson until he turns twelve. At that point he is old enough to understand his tasks as a brother. Jem walked his sister to school every morning and walked her home in the afternoons until he moved on to High School. A good example of Jem's responsibility was when he took Scout to the High School auditorium for the Halloween pageant. On their way home, Mr. Ewell attacked them and it was up to Jem to protect his sister. Jem did the best he could to try and get Scout home safely until Arthur Radley came to help them. Although Jem did many irresponsible things, like cutting the tops off of Mrs. Dubose's flowers, he began to learn from his mistakes. By the end of "To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem learns that by being responsible, he will be treated with dignity.

Jem and Scout have both learned many lessons, from events happening in the town, from their father, and their neighbours. Jem's responsibility has made him more helpful around the house and even for his football team. As Jem and Scout began learning about the cruel people in the world, they realised that respect and kindness are vital. With help from others, Jem and Scout have learned these valuable lessons the hard way.

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