Essay, Research Paper
The Evolution Of Jem Finch
In Harper Lee s To Kill A Mockingbird, Jeremy Finch is one of the main characters who evolves from a child to an adolescent who learns to question the many faults of his environment. As Jeremy (or Jem) grew up, he adapted to the adult world as best he could, and learned that life was not the beautiful day in the neighborhood that Jem thought it was. And in doing so, he grows a closer resemblance to his father.
We meet Jem near the age of ten, with his sister Scout, and their new friend Dill. Here, they relate to each other like children often do, with unreal stories, and other childlike qualities. For example, in explaining his knowledge on Arthur Boo Radley, Jem explains that Boo “dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands were blood-stained; if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off.” The children’s acceptance of such superstitions (specifically, Scout s evaluation of Jem s description of the story as reasonable ) shows that they are just as susceptible to accepting the local gossip about the mysterious character as any other child in that situation.
Furthermore, we learn that Scout looks to Jem for support and wisdom, like a little sister looking up to a big brother would. Though his advice is often inaccurate (e.g., he thinks that entailment is “having your tail in a crack,” when it actually has to do with the way property inherited, and he refers to the new reading technique the “Dewey Decimal System” because he is confusing the library catalogue with the new educational theories of John Dewey), he is always their for her, giving his little sister support when she needs it. Despite his warnings not to tag along with him and his fifth-grade friends at school, he still cares for her in that fashion.
As the story progresses, Jem starts to pass that childhood stage, and grows closer to the adult sphere. Evidence is found in his efforts to develop a relationship with the mysterious Boo. The offers of chewing gum and broken watches through a tree hole had lifted his spirits. But just as Jem and his friends were growing closer to Boo, their hole of communication had been broken. Jem’s reaction to the plugging of the hole is perhaps symptomatic of his passage from the world of childhood toward adulthood. Just as the hole has been plugged up and their “conversation” with Boo has ended, so too must childish games end and grown-up events begin. Standing on the porch, a threshold between the outdoor, summer – like world of childish freedom, and the inside, civilized world of the grown-ups, Jem is perhaps mourning the last days of his own childhood as much as the loss of the budding friendship with Boo.
But later on, the closeness between Jem and Scout seems to deteriorate as Jem has grown up, becoming moody and temperamental in the process. He attempts to give advice to Scout like Atticus would, telling her not to be defiant toward their Aunt Alexandra. In doing so, he puts himself onto the adult side of the argument, annoying Scout as well.
Interestingly, Jem s beliefs are put to the test when his father defends Tom Robinson, a black man accused of rape, in a trial. Though the jury would be completely biased, Jem strongly believed that justice would prevail on Tom s behalf after the evidence came out about his left arm. When the jury pronounced Mr. Robinson guilty, it made Jem feel hurt. It came to him as a complete surprise to his na ve mind, and he feels each jury-member’s “guilty” verdict like a physical feeling of pain. In retrospect, he was psychologically wounded by the result of the trial, and his belief that all the people of Maycomb, as well as people in general, were good people had been severly damaged. And throughout the rest of the story, the trial distraughts Jem as he tries to allow his still adolescent mind to understand events in a more adult way.
In retrospect, I believe that Jem resembles Atticus more than Scout does. Though Jem still had a lot of growing up to do in the story, he learns the more valuable lessons and tries to incorporate them to his life. By his experience with Miss Maudie, where she berates him and his father for defending negroes, Jem knew enough to discourage Scout from being so defiant to her Aunt Alexandra. His observation of the Tom Robinson s trial made him realize that defending Tom would have been the right thing to do, even though he was against all odds. Though the results were not the ones Jem had expected, he learns the real evils of life, which brings him closer to his father s eyes than Scout. And through all of these experiences, Jeremy Finch might soon become the great man that his father was, in essence, showing how well he was taught by his father.