The coming of age moment in anyone’s life is crucial, as it shows the important transition from being young, innocent, and ignorant to being enlightened on the sins that the society we live in is composed of. Jem faces the challenges of realizing the racism that goes on in Maycomb, the town in Alabama that he lives in, through a court case between a black man named Tom Robinson and a white woman named Mayella Ewell, that shows the towns true colors.
Harper Lee uses juxtaposition to show the difference between Jem’s reaction to the court case versus the crowd around him. Scout says, “It was Jem’s turn to cry. His face was streaked with angry tears as we made our way through the cheerful crowd” (284). In this passage, Scout notices a major difference between the crowd and Jem’s moods: while Jem is angry, the crowd is uplifted. This juxtaposition proves Jem’s coming-of-age by pushing him into an event in which not everything turns out as he hopes. Scout and Jem learn in this instant that they have a different psychology of what is right and wrong; the town believes that all black people are immoral and cannot be trusted whereas Jem and Scout (and most children in general) think that people should be trusted based on what they do as opposed to what they look like. This same juxtaposition is illustrated in the above quote because it shows the small but major ways of how society in Maycomb differs from morality. The children learn that not everyone thinks the same and that everyone will have a different opinion on whatever matter appears, even if it is a matter of life and death.
Next, Lee uses the motif of racism to teach Jem that Tom’s sentence, as well as the law, is unfair. Atticus explains to Jem about Tom Robinson’s guilty verdict, “‘I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again'” (285). Atticus is saying that the judgment is purely biased, and the jury can make this decision as many times as they want, because they represent the voice of the community. As stated earlier in the book, the segregation of white and black members of Maycomb promotes racism, a recurring motif that Atticus stresses by using the word “again.” As an innocent man is sent to prison. Going into the verdict, Jem assumes the ruling will be in Tom’s favor and will be fair due to the evidence Atticus presents. However, due to the town’s morals, they decide against Tom because of his skin color instead of the facts. This outcome teaches Jem that the sentence, as well as the law, is unfair. As Jem grows up, his hope about the truth always winning is crushed. This injustice majorly destroys his innocence, affecting him long-term by making him more skeptical about his decisions and his judgment of people in general. Ultimately, Jem learns that he cannot trust the people around him to make the right choices when it comes to cases of racism and injustice.
Finally, Lee uses symbolism to portray the killing of innocence through a mockingbird. In this book where multiple innocent people’s minds are “destroyed” due to the “evils” in the story, such as racism. The “mockingbird” in the story is used as a symbol to represent the “innocence” of others. Basically, if you were to “kill a mockingbird,” you would be killing their innocence. Throughout the book Jem can be identified as one of the many mockingbirds, the “mockingbirds” are innocent people who have had their beliefs injured or destroyed through one way or another. At the end of the book Scout thinks that hurting Boo Radley would, “be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?” (370) this means that if they were to hurt Arthur it would be pointless since he killed a man with murderous intent, it would be like “shooting a mockingbird.” (right?)
In conclusion, the difference from beginning to the end of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout and Jem learns that they should judge people by their individuality, rather than how they appear to be. Throughout the book they meet three major people that change their perspective forever. Tom Robinson and Mr. Raymond both teach the kids that you should treat everybody the same regardless of their skin color, as the blacks are people too. Even though the story is told through Scout’s eyes the readers ar able to see how Jem is maturing throughout the entire book.