Jems Character Traits In A Essay

Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem)

Character Analysis


Dill may be the brains behind the Finch kids' early attempts to draw out Boo Radley, but Jem is the one who takes action. He's the one who overcomes his fear to run up and touch the Radleys' front door, fiddles with the fishing pole to try to leave a note on Boo's windowsill, and spearheads the midnight raid on the Radley Place.

Why does Jem want to see Boo so badly? Because he's a mystery right before their eyes, like the ones in the books he read? Or maybe it's all a game? After all, it's Jem who comes up with the idea of acting out Boo's life, and takes on the starring role himself.

Maybe. But Jem seems to take the Boo boondoggle more seriously than that. When Mr. Nathan cements up the hole in the tree in front of the Radley Place where the kids have been finding treasures, Jem is seriously upset.

Next morning on the way to school he ran ahead of me and stopped at the tree. Jem was facing me when he looked up, and I saw him go stark white.


I ran to him.

Someone had filled our knot-hole with cement.

"Don't you cry, now, Scout... don't cry now, don't you worry-" he muttered at me all the way to school. (7.62-66)

Later Scout sees that Jem himself has been crying. It's not certain that Jem suspects Boo has been the one leaving them gifts, but that would give one reason why Jem is so distressed at having the connection with their Mystery Friend so abruptly cut off. Somehow, for some reason, he actually feels a connection with Boo.

Big Bro

Jem looks out for Scout and—okay, we'll say it—kind of bosses her around. He definitely tries to get her to do what he, in his superior knowledge from being four years older, knows she should do. Asserting Scout's inferiority, as younger and a girl, appears to be one way that Jem boosts his own ego. The Boo Radley play-acting game starts out as one of these ego-boosts.

"I know what we are going to play," he announced. "Something new, something different. […] Boo Radley."

Jem's head at times was transparent: he had thought that up to make me understand he wasn't afraid of Radleys in any shape or form, to contrast his own fearless heroism with my cowardice. (4.82-85)

Scout knows what he's up to, but lets him get away with it. Jem's thoughts aren't always so clear to Scout, and they get more confusing to her as both kids get older. This means that Scout narrates what Jem says and does when he's around her, but she can't always identify what's going on inside his brain.

Jem stayed moody and silent for a week. As Atticus had once advised me to do, I tried to climb into Jem's skin and walk around in it: if I had gone alone to the Radley Place at two in the morning, my funeral would have been held the next afternoon. So I left Jem alone and tried not to bother him. (7.1)

Jem phases into and out of wanting to hang out with Scout; during the "on" periods, he takes on the role of her teacher whether she wants him to or not.

"That's because you can't hold something in your mind but a little while," said Jem. "It's different with grown folks, we-"

His maddening superiority was unbearable these days. He didn't want to do anything but read and go off by himself. Still, everything he read he passed along to me, but with this difference: formerly, because he thought I'd like it; now, for my edification and instruction. (14.41-42)

Is this just Jem asserting his superiority all over again? Or does he want to make sure his sister has as much useful knowledge at her fingertips as possible? Or maybe treating Scout as a child is a way for him to establish himself as a grown-up.

Atticus, Jr.

Early in the novel, Jem seems happy to dance around the edges of Atticus's rules.

He still maintained, however, that Atticus hadn't said we couldn't, therefore we could; and if Atticus ever said we couldn't, Jem had thought of a way around it: he would simply change the names of the characters and then we couldn't be accused of playing anything. (5.1)

Like a slick lawyer who follows the letter of the law but violates the spirit, Jem knows that Atticus wouldn't approve of their playacting Boo's life, but hopes he can wriggle out of it through plausible deniability. But when the stakes are raised after the midnight raid on the Radley Place, Jem thinks differently about Atticus finding out about this new torment to the Radleys. Scout thinks a beating from their father is better than risking getting shot by Mr. Radley, but Jem explains why he has to risk it.

I was desperate: "Look, it ain't worth it, Jem. A lickin' hurts but it doesn't last. You'll get your head shot off, Jem. Please..."

He blew out his breath patiently. "I—it's like this, Scout," he muttered. "Atticus ain't ever whipped me since I can remember. I wanta keep it that way. […] We shouldn'a done that tonight, Scout." (6.97-98)

While Scout thinks it's better to face your punishment and get it over with, Jem would rather walk through fire than have the shame of giving Atticus a reason to be disappointed in him. (Of course, we find out later that Atticus knew all along, even though he didn't let on—maybe because he wants to give Jem a chance to redeem himself.)

But sometimes Jem's desire to defend Atticus is stronger than wanting his dad's approval. (And Aunt Alexandra says they have no family pride.) Jem's most dramatic failure of gentlemanly behavior is his assault on Mrs. Dubose's camellias after hearing one too many insults from her on Atticus's moral character.

I sometimes wondered exactly what made Jem do it, what made him break the bonds of "You just be a gentleman, son," and the phase of self-conscious rectitude he had recently entered. Jem had probably stood as much guff about Atticus lawing for niggers as had I, and I took it for granted that he kept his temper—he had a naturally tranquil disposition and a slow fuse. At the time, however, I thought the only explanation for what he did was that for a few minutes he simply went mad. (11.29)

Jem may be able to hold himself back from attacking a person, but faced with an empty porch and a garden full of camellias, he's like someone looking at a sandcastle after the obnoxious kids who built it have left, all SMASH! and RAGE! When Atticus makes him apologize and then serve a punishment, he resists—but then obeys. Atticus's response—putting Jem right back in the situation that got him into trouble in the first place, listening to Mrs. Dubose—shows his trust that Jem will do better in future. And Jem does.

Daddy's Boy

While Jem stops attacking on Atticus's behalf, he does dig in at taking defensive action. At the Maycomb jail on the night the lynch mob shows up, Jem is the one who leads to kids downtown to check on Atticus; while Scout is the first to get them directly involved, Jem flat-out refuses Atticus's command to leave.

We were accustomed to prompt, if not always cheerful acquiescence to Atticus's instructions, but from the way he stood Jem was not thinking of budging.

"Go home, I said."

Jem shook his head. As Atticus's fists went to his hips, so did Jem's, and as they faced each other I could see little resemblance between them: Jem's soft brown hair and eyes, his oval face and snug-fitting ears were our mother's, contrasting oddly with Atticus's graying black hair and square-cut features, but they were somehow alike. Mutual defiance made them alike. (15.96-98)

When he was young, Jem accepted what Atticus wants him to do as what's right. But here, the two sides—right and Atticus—diverge for him. Atticus has taught him to act with honor, but not necessarily with obedience, and here he puts honor first.

You have done well, young grasshopper.

Oh, the Humanity

But when Tom Robinson's verdict comes back "guilty," everything changes for Jem. He's been convinced that, based on the evidence, the jury can't possibly convict. When they do, he feels like he's been physically attacked:

Judge Taylor was polling the jury: "Guilty... guilty... guilty... guilty..." I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each "guilty" was a separate stab between them. (21.50)

The verdict also seems to be a broader attack on things Jem thought were true: that the legal system is just, that innocent men are acquitted, that Maycomb is a community of good, fair-minded people. After the trial, Jem struggles to figure out why people are so eager to divide into groups and hate each other. Scout says that people are just people, but Jem isn't so sure.

"That's what I thought, too," he said at last, "when I was your age. If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other? If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, 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." (23.117)

The Tom Robinson trial makes Jem lose his faith in humanity. Will he ever get it back? Is there a way to acknowledge all the evil people do and be able still leave the house? (Atticus might have something to say about that.) Jem is unconscious for the conclusion of the novel, so he doesn't have the same moment of revelation that Scout does, but perhaps his waking up will also be a kind of rebirth.

Jem's Timeline

To Kill a Mockingbird Essay – Character Analysis of Jem Finch

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German Finch. What can you say about him? Well, you can say that he is a pretty great character. In the next couple pages, I’ll tell you just why this is. I’ll also explain my views on this important literary figure. So sit back, relax, and get ready for the “A&E Biography” of German Finch (Well, not really A&E Biography, but good anyway). German Finch, otherwise known as Jem, was a key figure in the book “To Kill A Mockingbird. ” This “co-star” of the book is in his teenage years and was mentioned in the first paragraph of the book.

This type of literary action is usually used to signify a special role in the story. He was introduced as Scout Finch’s brother who broke his arm at an early age in his life. He is also introduced as liking sports at an earl age. This tells us that he is very outgoing. This is important because throughout the story Jem and Scout get into trouble involving being physically fit. For example, when German jumped the fence to get away from the brother of Boo Radley, it’s a good thing he was physically fit otherwise he could have ripped a little more than just his pants.

Also, being physically fit, I think, made Scout want to look up to Jem even more. Seeing as Scout enjoys physical activities herself, having an older relative in her immediate family gives her more to do. In that way, the story involves the two children in their adventures, not just Scout. Jem, I think, is portrayed perfectly to be a brother to scout. He is almost too real for this book! If you look at it, Jem acts in ways and does things that most older brothers do to their smaller, weaker siblings; in this case a sister.

Basically, he acts like he can do anything and act he wants to her. In some parts of the story, Jem is loving, kind, and gentle with the younger Scout. This is shown mostly in the beginning of “To Kill A Mockingbird. ” Take for example towards the time when Dill arrives. He’s great before he arrives and even better when Dill just comes. Dill, Jem, and Scout form a strong bond. They start to do mischievous acts together. Here comes Jem’s fall from grace. Now the dark side of the character known as German Finch. As you know, Jem and Dill get more acquainted with each other very fast.

Their mischievous acts get them both a kick, but to Jem, it’s just not enough. Jem now becomes a devious scoundrel of a rebel! His relationship with Scout takes a downward spiral as a result of this. He begins to try and annoy her every chance he gets. He’s obnoxious to her and even down right frightening. The rebellious ego of his fills even more with time. Remember the tree house incident? If not, it was when he was staying in the tree house all day. One time, Jem, Dill, and Scout run into the Radley property, and get in serious trouble.

Jem rips his pants on the fence of the Radley premises and I feel that gave him an even larger amount of air to fill his ego with. I feel this way because since then, Jem starts pointing out how girlish Scout is. He also stops playing with her and goes off to play with Dill instead of his sister. Jem begins shows a little “shine of good,” though, during the following chapters. I like to term this as “The Jem Reformation,” because it’s basically Jem’s reformation from dark to light. “The Jem Reformation” basically begins at the point when Dill leaves Maycomb County.

From then on, he leaves his ego filled head behind and starts to really mature. This maturing process takes a while, but when it starts it picks up quickly. Firstly was the Tom Robinson case. Although this spreads through a large part of the story, but I just want to talk about it real quick. Even at the start of the trial, Jem knew that it was a racist thing and that Tom Robinson would most likely be found guilty and executed. However, he kept his faith to his fathers skills in law and had a little flicker of hope in him.

Next, was Boo Radley. Since the beginning of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” Jem saw Boo Radley as a mysterious figure of a person. He thought him to be bad. However, as he gets older ad the novel progresses, Jem realizes that Boo Radley is actually a man of good intentions who means no harm. Jem deduces this conclusion easily. He sees that someone is leaving treats and goodies in the knothole of a tree for them to find and enjoy. He thinks it’s a mystery in his early years, but in maturity he knows that it is none other than Boo Radley.

Also, when Miss Maudie’s house is burning down and someone puts a blanket on Scout to protect her from the cold, he figures out that it was actually Boo Radley. Scout gets a little scared at the notion of Boo Radley coming up behind her, but Jem soon explains to and convinces her that Boo Radley is actually a nice guy. Another big help to “The Jem Reformation” was the whole ordeal with Mrs. Dubose. There is no apparent mystery about Mrs. Dubose, but in some ways she is just as intimidating as Boo Radley ever was.

The old lady sits on her front porch in her wheelchair and makes nasty remarks as the children pass by. One day, in addition to her usual insults, Mrs. Dubose taunts Jem and Scout for having a father who makes his living “lawing for niggers. ” Jem has been able to take worse than this from children his own age, but these words coming from an adult try his self-control beyond endurance. On his way back from downtown, Jem slashes the buds off all of Mrs. Dubose’s camellia bushes. Now Jem’s father, Atticus, is pretty much mad and insists that Jem apologize for what he has done, and Mrs.

Dubose says that to make amends Jem must come to her house and read aloud to her for two hours every afternoon for two months. Mrs. Dubose starts every session with more nasty insults, and then gradually drops off into a sort of drooling fit. Every day, the alarm clock that signals the end of the reading session takes longer and longer to ring, and the children suspect that there will never be an end to their ordeal. Mrs. Dubose finally tells Jem that he doesn’t have to come around anymore. She dies a few weeks later. Atticus now explains to Jem why Mrs. Dubose wanted someone to read to her.

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Mrs. Dubose was addicted to morphine and wanted Jem to sort of help her get along with her withdrawal. This event seriously and most definitely encouraged the “The Jem Reformation” possibly more than anything I’ve discussed. German Finch. Now what can we say about him. We can now say that he was a typical teenage boy. He had fears, feelings, and one of the greatest attitudes I have heard of in a fictional character. Whoever thought up Jem Scout, whether it be Harper Lee, Truman Capote, or whoever, I wish to thank them for there journey into this boy. German Finch: a real literary hero.

Author: Gene Jeremiah

in To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird Essay – Character Analysis of Jem Finch

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