Coming of Age in To Kill a Mockingbird

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Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird outlines the life of a brother who grew up in a time of racial inequality and conflict, Jem, and sister Scout. Jem Finch is what most would call a typical young kid growing up in Maycomb, Alabama, a tiny Alabama town, thrilled by sports, weapons, and is hard. Indeed, his education distinguishes from many of his friends who had the same hobbies. Harper Lee establishes Jem’s character to illustrate the internal and external conflict suffered by several young Americans when their morals and education interfere with the cultural practice. Lee demonstrates how an impressive kid can develop into a mature, compassionate young man through Jem’s voice and characterization.

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While Jem and Scout face many controversies throughout the novel, one of the most significant coming-of-age scenes in the novel is Jem’s meeting with Mrs. Dubose. Lee paints a disgraceful image of Dubose, characterizing her as ‘vicious’ because the Finch brothers are afraid to walk through her front door because of “being raked by her wrathful gaze, subjected to ruthless interrogation” and name-calling (103). Jem and Scout got adapted to receiving insults from their dad, Atticus, defending a black man in court in an overwhelmingly racist town, but Mrs. Dubose is one of the few adults who talked to the kids. In reality, Dubose tells something so deeply offensive to Jem that by cutting up the valuable lavender plants of Mrs. Dubose he descends into a violent rage and fights back.

In his assault on the flowers, which symbolically resemble Mrs. Dubose, Jem’s internal conflict to fulfill the desires of his father breaks through. This action indicates a natural response, particularly from a kid who is still unable to regulate his feelings or even comprehend them. He does something devastating and negative out of a presumed good intention to stick up for his dad. Lee develops this scene to demonstrate how hatred can effectively raise more hate, but she utilizes Jem’s dad and even Mrs. Dubose to emphasize how discovering the good in others can contribute to a favorable ending.

Jem’s penalty was disturbing, causing the reader to wonder why Mrs. Dubose genuinely wanted Jem to visit her. Although apparently ironic, Lee clearly demonstrates that Mrs. Dubose was not necessarily as vicious as her first belief. She asks Jem to read to her, and he’s doing it for a whole month every day, plus an additional week. For what she really is, the reader considers Dubose: fragile, ill, and disciplined. Jem remains to hate her although she keeps talking to him, he continues. Jem consumes his emotions and completes what he began, despite his disappointment and hate for Mrs. Dubose.

His original response was one of confusion and absolute emotion when he discovered that Mrs. Dubose passed away and left him the camellia flower inside the candy box. Atticus identifies that she was a morphine addict and that her hatred and meanness were often triggered by her withdrawals struggling to overcome her. Jem never realized that, and he was overwhelmed by his unexpected insight. What Jem saw as bigotry and racism on the surface was just a generous amount of paint surrounding what Atticus believes to be more significant courage. Jem learned that real courage is not 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,” (115).

Harper Lee created this particular scene to demonstrate that coming of age is not always an external factor, and she used the most unlikely character in this world to represent what is good. Jem discovers that no matter how hideous, how nasty, how terrible someone might seem, we never realize what struggles they face, and we should always honor individuals around us, no matter how difficult it may be. This is one of the hardest lessons a young kid can learn, but in To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem was able to use this knowledge to assist him through the remaining inner and outer fights. 

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