In Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ the experiences of Jem Finch (a 10-13-year-old boy throughout the time frame of the novel and is the son of lawyer Atticus Finch) are used to comment on society in 1930’s Maycomb Alabama. The event of the guilty verdict in the court case chapters showcases the racist society of Maycomb and prompts Jem’s journey to adulthood.
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is set in 1930’s Alabama and is illustrated through the perspective of six-year-old Scout Finch. The novel centers around Atticus Finch as he attempts to prove the innocence of Tom Robinson, a black man who has been wrongly accused of rape in 1930’s Alabama.
Jem’s character undergoes many changes throughout the novel as the novel is set in a time that Jem is experiencing puberty and going through many changes. A theme that highlights this change in Jem is the theme of Jem’s Journey to Adulthood. The experience of the Court Case really emphasizes this idea. In the first part of the novel, Jem’s character is fueled with childlike innocence, where he is fascinated by the story of his neighbor Boo Radley, however, after the guilty verdict of Tom Robinson Jem begins his journey to adulthood.
The shattering experience of the court case for Jem triggers his journey to Adulthood in the novel. Jem is disillusioned by the guilty verdict of Tom Robinson, as before this verdicts he was decided that there was no possible way that the jury could convict Tom Robinson of being guilty of this crime “Don’t see how any jury can convict on what we heard-”. The shock of the guilty verdict shocks Jem and triggers his Journey to adulthood. It becomes clear that the verdict truly affected Jem “I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, his shoulders jerked as if each ‘guilty’ was a separate stab between them.”
The guilty verdict of Tom Robinson confronts Jem with the reality of his town. “It was Jem’s turn to cry”, Jem has been shocked out of his innocence and is crying because of the injustice. From the Guilty verdict of Tom in the novel, there becomes a clear growth in the character development of Jem, clearly highlighting the Journey to Adulthood in Jem. Jem is no longer fueled by childlike innocence but a newfound understanding of the society that he lives in. “It’s like being a caterpillar in a cocoon that’s what it is’. ‘Like somethin’, asleep wrapped up in a warm place. I always thought Maycomb folks were the best folks in the world, least that’s what they seemed like.” Jem understands that things are not always what they appear to be: Maycomb seems on the outside to be a good place but is actually a racist society.
The idea of appearance vs reality reveals itself through Jem’s Journey to adulthood. The reader gains a perspective through the eyes of Jem, who in the first part of the novel was fascinated by all things to do with his mysterious neighbor Boo Radley, and now after the conviction of Tom is fueled by a new desire to make a change in his prejudice society, “ ‘t’s alright to talk like that- can’t any Christian judges an’ lawyers make up for heathen juries’ ‘Soon’s as I get my gown-”
The reader is able to obtain a clear idea of the appearance vs reality through Jem’s journey to adulthood, as to how Jem views Maycomb has changed. Jem loses his childlike innocence and therefore has new views on society. Jem now understands hat the world is filled with much more injustice and darkness that he ever thought possible.
Jems’ journey to adulthood can be related to a moment in our own lives when we too embarked on our own journeys to adulthood. Everybody undergoes a time in their lives when they realize that the world is not all that is seems, an experience that awakens them to how cruel the world can be. The world no longer becomes about us, but what we can do to help those in it.
In our world today there is so much voice around the Black lives matter movement, a movement in which Black people are protesting for their rights for safety in America. Even though in our modern times we place ourselves on this pedestal, claiming how much our world has changed for the better and how accepting we are now, and how we have come so far. But in reality, we have so much further to go. This is the appearance vs reality of the world that we live in. We can claim that we have progressed so far, and yet see so much of that progress being pushed back with what is happening in America and all around the world right now.
In conclusion, the experiences of Jem Finch were used to comment on society. Particularly the event of the guilty verdict of Tom Robinson which triggers Jem’s journey to adulthood as he learns about Maycomb and the racist society he lives in.