Characters: Jem

Jem Finch

Scout's older brother, Jem Finch changes considerably over the course of the novel. At first you see him as Scout's playmate and equal. Once the children start school, however, Jem becomes more aware of the difference in age between himself and his sister. He doesn't want her to embarrass him in front of his fifth-grade friends. And later he and Dill develop a friendship from which Scout is partly excluded because she is a girl. In this part of the story you see Jem as the wiser older brother. He is the first to figure out that Boo Radley has been trying to communicate with them, and he does his best to explain unfamiliar words to Scout, even though he often gets their meanings wrong.

Jem is also the more thoughtful and introverted of the Finch children. Unlike Scout, who is a fighter by temperament, Jem seems determined to obey his father's request to avoid fighting. He lets his anger build inside, until one day in a fit of temper he destroys Mrs. Dubose's garden. Later, at the time of the trial, Jem's optimistic view of human nature becomes apparent. He is probably the only person in town who really believes that justice will be done and Tom Robinson found innocent. When this does not happen, his disillusionment is so great that for a time he can't stand even to talk about the incident.

By the end of the story Jem is almost grownup. On the surface, he seems quicker than Scout to put the trial behind, but inwardly, he has been more disturbed than Scout by the events of the trial. It is worth considering that Jem's broken arm at the end of the story is a deliberate sign that he will be wounded forever by what he has observed.

Jem Finch is one of the most important and complex characters in the novel.
(a) How does his relationship with Scout change over the course of the story?
(b) Who do you think resembles Atticus the most - Jem or Scout?
Jem is in the process of understanding the adult world and its attitudes.
(a) What does he learn from his experience with Mrs Dubose?
(b) What does he learn about the nature of Boo Radley?
(c) Why was he so shocked by the verdict returned by the jury at the trial of Tom Robinson?
As Jem grows older, why does he find it difficult to deal with the hypocrisy and cruelty of people?
How is Jem shown to be Scout's protector throughout the novel?