The Changes and Development of the Perspective of Jem on Courage, People, and Justice in To Kill a Mockingbird, a Novel by Harper Lee
Unavoidable. Joyful. Confusion, Adjustment. Growth. Every child matures differently compared to other people. Sometimes it‘s hard and difficult; for others growing up is longed for and highly anticipated It can happen fast, slow, incrementally or all at once, In Harper Lee’s To KillA Mockingbird the reader sees the main character Scout grow up. However these events did not just affect her, they also changed her older brotherr Jem’s perspective on courage, people, and justice change and develop throughout the book Jem, like most children, perceives courage simply as not being afraid. Courage is seen in most children’s books as defeating the bad guy, not being afraid, and accepting dares, Jem had this naive view of courage in the beginning of the book as seen when he accepted a dare to touch the Radley’s house.
Later in the story he tries to defend his father by lashing out Mrs. Duboser Atticus requires Jem to go and read to the sick older woman as punishment for this behavior, After her death Jem learns the woman was dealing with an addiction and had refused to take any more medicine in an attempt to recover from the addiction. She knew refusing the medication may mean she would die but Jem was unaware of her circumstances. Jem questions Atticus as to the purpose of his punishment. Atticus responded l’I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what”
That is when Jem realized that courage is different than what he thought originally. He learns that courage is more than not being afraid but it is doing hard things, even in the face of failure, Doing what is right isn‘t always easy, It is a hard lesson for a 12 year old, but is just the beginning of his moral growth and development, Courage is not the only value Jem learns about during the book, Arguably, one of the largest themes of the book is the value of empathy in a community. Atticus often says that you can’t understand someone until you step into their shoes, During the trial Jem is able to do just that and learns a lot about humanity. In the very first chapter Jem explains his belief to Dill that all the rumors about Boo Radley are true and makes him out to be a monster. (Chapter 1) Often in children’s literature the heroes and villains are either all good or all bad–an epitome of a flat character, It is always easy to tell them apart.
That leads a lot of children to believe the same good and evil lines apply to real life, In reality people are rarely that easy to differentiate between Jem is not exempt from that naive belief about good and evilt He has to learn that people are more complex, usually having many reasons for the things they do. Jem’s growth in empathy progresses when he begins to think about that reasoning instead of creating rumors or speculation, He comments: “I think I’m beginning to understand something. i think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all this time“ it’s because he wants to stay inside” (304). When rumors begin to spread about him and his family it is as if he was walking in Boo‘s shoes and finds that it is much harder than he thought it would be.
It can be harder to find who the “bad guy” really is. This was a hard adjustment for him, and often left him confused, upset and mildly angry at the world. Gaining empathy for other people often leads children to question justice. After learning what other people really go through they wonder why life isn‘t fair. Like most children Jem didn‘t fully grasp thatjustice isn’t always fair or sometimes not even served at all until after Tom’s trial had ended. Before hearing the verdict he states “Don’t see how anyjury could convict on what we heard”(279)t Jem like most young children are taught through stories and culture that good always wins and bad choices are punished, That is the youthful and naive belief about justice.
When going to the trial Jem is assured they will win the case because that would be fair and right. His understanding of justice matures significantly after they receive the verdict at the end of the trial “How could they do it, how could they” (285), He was at first confused, but then his understand changes as the book comes to an end. He took one of the biggest steps in growing up when he realized that the world isn’t always fair and bad things can happen to good people. By the end of the novel Jem has developed a larger and more mature understanding of the world than a lot of adults meaning he is a static characters.
Because of events in the book he was forced to grow up much faster and face a lot of life changing experiences such as injustice, empathy, and serving someone he disliked, These along with others events completely changed his perspective on courage, empathy, and justice You may have caught that I mentioned children stories a lot in my essay, and how they provide kids with an unrealistic View on the world. While it is good to preserve an imagination, how are these books influencing children? Are they teaching good ethics and kids to dream, or are they teaching them that thing are accomplished through violence, and that everyone who isn’t always “on their side“ is evil?
February 2, 2023
February 2, 2023