To Kill a Mockingbird

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Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem) Character Analysis

Scout's older brother and Atticus's son. Jem is four years older than Scout, and therefore understands many of the events in Maycomb in a way that the younger Scout can't. Intelligent and adventurous as a child, Jem never loses these qualities but also grows into a young man who is strong, serious, idealistic, and sensitive. While both Scout and Jem love Atticus, Jem also reveres the justice and moral character that Atticus stands for, and which he wants to one day stand for himself.

Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem) Quotes in To Kill a Mockingbird

The To Kill a Mockingbird quotes below are all either spoken by Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem) or refer to Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Warner Books edition of To Kill a Mockingbird published in 1960.
Chapter 12 Quotes
Lula stopped, but she said, "You ain't got no business bringin' white chillun here—they got their church, we got our'n. It is our church, ain't it, Miss Cal?"

… When I looked down the pathway again, Lula was gone. In her place was a solid mass of colored people.

One of them stepped from the crowd. It was Zeebo, the garbage collector. "Mister Jem," he said, "we're mighty glad to have you all here. Don't pay no 'tention to Lula, she's contentious because Reverend Sykes threatened to church her. She's a troublemaker from way back, got fancy ideas an' haughty ways—we're mighty glad to have you all."
Related Characters: Lula (speaker), Jean Louise Finch (Scout), Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem), Calpurnia, Reverend Sykes
Page Number: 158-159
Explanation and Analysis:

Calpurnia has invited Jem and Scout to her all-black church while Atticus is away at the state legislature. This passage pins one woman, Lula, who is suspicious of the white children's presence, against the rest of the congregation, which welcomes them. Lula is portrayed as being just as prejudiced as the white people in town, just as susceptible to judging people on the basis of their skin color rather than of their character. In this sense, the rest of the congregation is shown to surmount this small-mindedness and embrace the inherent human dignity in welcoming guests into their home or place of worship.

Nonetheless, another way to interpret this passage would involve making a distinction between the kind of "prejudice" Lula shows and the kind shown by the white members of the town. The black people in Maycomb are discriminated against and restricted in almost every facet of their lives – their church is among the only places where they can feel secure and at home. It is understandable, therefore, for Lula to express suspicion at white children interrupting this small sanctuary in a town that seems to have little room or desire for people like her. As children, of course, Jem and Scout haven't played any kind of active role in creating this double standard, but Lula's reaction only underlines how deep and structural are the inequalities that persist in the town. The novel itself does not seem to recognize this latter view of Lula's position, but that might be taken as a criticism of the novel rather than a defense of it.

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Chapter 14 Quotes
Dill's eyes flickered at Jem, and Jem looked at the floor. Then he rose and broke the remaining code of our childhood. He went out of the room and down the hall. "Atticus," his voice was distant, "can you come here a minute, sir?"

Beneath its sweat-streaked dirt Dill's face went white. I felt sick.



Jem was standing in a corner of the room, looking like the traitor he was. "Dill, I had to tell him," he said. "You can't run three hundred miles off without your mother knowin'."

We left him without a word.
Related Characters: Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem) (speaker), Jean Louise Finch (Scout), Atticus Finch, Charles Baker Harris (Dill)
Page Number: 187-188
Explanation and Analysis:

Dill has run away from his own house in a town that is quite some distance away, and has snuck into the Finch's home, where Jem has found him hiding under the bed. As Scout watches, Jem calls to their father in order to tell him that Dill is here. Immediately, a line is drawn between Jem, on the one hand, and Scout and Dill, on the other.

Scout takes it for granted that one must never tell on another child – that there are secrets that can't be shared with adults. Jem, however, no longer adheres to this assumption: instead, he acts based on the knowledge that Dill's parents will be worried about him, and that it's the right thing to do to tell Atticus that Dill is here. From Scout's perspective, Jem is a traitor, but this is because she is still a child, while he has begun to grow up. The book doesn't necessarily paint adulthood as always better and more advanced than childhood, but it does suggest that moving into adulthood is an important step, one that Scout isn't yet ready to take.

Chapter 16 Quotes
"Well how do you know we ain't Negroes?"

"Uncle Jack Finch says we really don't know. He says as far as he can trace back the Finches we ain't, but for all he knows we mighta come straight out of Ethiopia durin' the Old Testament."

"Well if we came out durin' the Old Testament it's too long ago to matter."

"That's what I thought," said Jem, "but around here once you have a drop of Negro blood, that makes you all black."
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem)
Page Number: 216
Explanation and Analysis:

Amid the excitement around the trial that's about to start, Jem and Scout talk about their own family history. In Scout's childhood innocence, once again, it becomes clear just how silly it is to seek to draw hard-and-fast borders between races, and to proclaim moral differences based on something so fragile. After all, every human being, ultimately, originated from Africa, and not only can one can never with any certitude trace one's own family history back in order to prove racial "purity" – the very idea of racial purity, as this passage shows, is simply absurd. 

Jem, slightly older than Scout, is aware both of how senseless the idea of racial purity is, as well as how entrenched an idea it is in this small town anyway. The idea that even one small "drop" of blackness makes you black – that is, according to the town's logic, morally inferior – gives the townspeople a black-and-white way to look at racial relations, and a pseudo-scientific definition to bolster their own prejudice. 

Chapter 25 Quotes
[Jem] was certainly never cruel to animals, but I had never known his charity to embrace the insect world.

"Why couldn't I mash him?" I asked.

"Because they don't bother you," Jem answered in the darkness. He had turned out his reading light.
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem) (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Mockingbird
Page Number: 320
Explanation and Analysis:

Scout has been poking at a roly-poly bug, preparing to smash it, but Jem has stopped her. She pays attention to him because he's her older brother, but she's also confused as to why he has forbidden her this game. However, by the end of the passage Scout (as well as we readers) should recognize the parallel that Jem is making. He is expanding the definition of "mockingbird" to include any living creature that cannot defend itself, that should be protected rather than destroyed. By only applying the lesson of the mockingbird to some things – people rather than animals, for instance – the significance and power of this attitude is lost.

Once again, as Jem and Scout both grow up over the course of the story, in some ways Jem leads Scout. Several years older than her, he must grapple with the lessons about good, evil, and how to treat other people on his own, even as his sister slowly comes to understand what he does as well.

Chapter 31 Quotes
A boy trudged down the sidewalk dragging a fishing pole behind him. A man stood waiting with his hands on his hips. Summertime, and his children played in the front yard with their friend, enacting a strange little drama of their own invention. It was fall, and his children fought on the sidewalk in front of Mrs. Dubose's. . . . Fall, and his children trotted to and fro around the corner, the day's woes and triumphs on their faces. They stopped at an oak tree, delighted, puzzled, apprehensive. Winter, and his children shivered at the front gate, silhouetted against a blazing house. Winter, and a man walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog. Summer, and he watched his children's heart break. Autumn again, and Boo's children needed him. Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem), Atticus Finch, Arthur Radley (Boo), Charles Baker Harris (Dill), Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose
Page Number: 374
Explanation and Analysis:

After Bob Ewell's attack on the Scout and Jem was thwarted by Boo Radley, Scout accompanies Boo Radley back to his house. She pauses on the Radley porch and looks out at the street. Briefly, we relive the entire trajectory of the novel, from the most significant highlights to the descriptions of everyday life in Maycomb, but through Boo Radley's eyes from within his house. Atticus's lesson, which Scout has remembered from long ago, was that you shouldn't judge someone based on first impressions: instead, you should try to see things from his or her perspective, try to really understand the person behind the appearance. Now she tries to do so, seeing herself and Jem as if they were someone else's children, viewed by a sympathetic stranger.

Of course, Scout has not really pierced Boo Radley's character – she hasn't really gotten to know him – merely by standing on his porch. But her revision of the events of the last year or so are a child's earnest attempt to try. She sees how Boo Radley could have developed a close emotional connection to her and her family even without ever speaking with them. The goodness and empathy that he shows is not on the surface, in the way he talks or looks, but in fact is far more profound.

When they finally saw him, why he hadn't done any of those things . . . Atticus, he was real nice. . . ." His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me. "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them." He turned out the light and went into Jem's room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem), Arthur Radley (Boo)
Page Number: 376
Explanation and Analysis:

Back at the family home, Scout tries to explain to Atticus what she has realized about Boo Radley: that all the suspicious rumors and prejudice against him actually have no basis in fact. Atticus is not shocked by this revelation. Indeed, he has told the children not to judge people before they stand in their shoes not so that they wait to judge until they understand better, but rather so that they learn that they have little right to judge at all. Atticus believes deeply that most people are good at heart, but are led astray by prejudice and by temptation. He is not naive – he does recognize the existence of evil in the world that must be fought against – but for him this evil is not located permanently in specific people but rather moves around, always able to insert itself in a given situation, but always able to be challenged as well.

Scout and Jem have, through the events of the novel. learned to take such a subtle approach to good and evil as well. They have lost much of their childhood innocence as a result. Still, having gained these difficult lessons, they are still in a transition period between childhood and adulthood. Atticus's great gift to them is to accompany them through this transition, watching over them as they make it.

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Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem) Character Timeline in To Kill a Mockingbird

The timeline below shows where the character Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem) appears in To Kill a Mockingbird. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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...who goes by the nickname Scout, begins to tell the story of how her brother Jem broke his arm. She starts with her family history: Simon Finch fled England to escape... (full context)
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One year when Scout is six and Jem is nine, a small and imaginative seven-year-old named Charles "Dill" Baker Harris comes to spend... (full context)
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...of ways to get Boo to come out, but settles on a dare: he'll give Jem a Gray Ghost comic book touches the Radley house. Jem does it. Scout thinks she... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Outside, Scout beats Walter up because helping him got her into trouble. Jem stops her, and invites Walter to come eat at their house. (full context)
Chapter 4
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...a tree overhanging the Radley's fence. And on the last day of school, Scout and Jem find two old pennies in the same knothole. Jem stares at the Radley place, deep... (full context)
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...a tire that leaves Scout lying on the pavement right next to the Radley's house, Jem comes up with a new game: they're going to act out Boo Radley's story. Atticus... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Jem and Dill start excluding Scout, who begins to spend more time with Miss Maudie Atkinson,... (full context)
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The next day, Dill and Jem get Scout to help them try to slip a note through a window of the... (full context)
Chapter 6
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On Dill's last night in Maycomb, he and Jem decide to peek into the Radley house. Scout, terrified, tags along. They sneak behind the... (full context)
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The shotgun blast—Nathan Radley had shot into the air—wakes the neighborhood. Jem's missing pants cause suspicion, but the kids says Jem lost them playing strip poker with... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...which is as bad as first grade. One day as they walk home from school, Jem tells Scout that when he went back to get his pants, they had been mended... (full context)
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Scout and Jem continue to find things in the knothole of the tree: twine, soap carved to look... (full context)
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...day Nathan Radley cements the knothole. He says the tree was dying, but Atticus tells Jem it wasn't. Jem stares at the Radley house for a long time. Scout thinks he... (full context)
Chapter 8
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That winter it snows in Maycomb for the first time since 1885. Scout and Jem use dirt covered with snow to make a snowman that looks remarkably like Mr. Avery,... (full context)
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Scout and Jem watch the fire from in front of the Radley house down the street. When they... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...involving" a black person comes up. He says the trial will be particularly tough on Jem and Scout. (full context)
Chapter 10
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Atticus is older than other kids' parents, and Scout and Jem are sometimes embarrassed by their father's bookishness. When he gave Jem and Scout the air... (full context)
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...the dog from such a distance. Atticus kills the dog in one shot. Scout and Jem, astonished, learn that when Atticus was young he was the best shot in the county.... (full context)
Chapter 11
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One day, Mrs. Dubose, an old woman who harasses Scout and Jem whenever they walk past her house, condemns Atticus for defending Tom Robinson. Jem, enraged, rips... (full context)
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As punishment, Atticus makes Jem go and read to Mrs. Dubose each afternoon. Scout goes with him. At first, each... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Calpurnia, who's in charge when Atticus is away, invites Scout and Jem to attend her church that Sunday. The all-black congregation gladly welcomes the Finch kids, except... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Scout, Jem, and Calpurnia return from church to discover that Aunt Alexandra has moved into the Finch's... (full context)
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...family's history, the better the family is. Alexandra even forces Atticus to teach Scout and Jem about their family history. But this strange change in Atticus makes Scout cry, and with... (full context)
Chapter 14
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As the summer progresses, Scout and Jem notice grownups in Maycomb talking about them. Scout hears the word "rape" again, and asks... (full context)
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That night, Jem tells Scout not to antagonize Aunt Alexandra, but Scout objects to him telling her what... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Jem gets scared someone might try to hurt Atticus. When Atticus drives into town the next... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Jem declares Mr Cunningham would have killed Atticus the previous night. But Atticus says Mr. Cunningham... (full context)
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Though Atticus tells Jem, Scout, and Dill that they shouldn't attend the trial, they sneak in. They arrive late,... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...tricks Ewell into writing his name, which reveals that Ewell is left-handed. Ewell is furious. Jem says: "We got 'em," because a left-handed man is more likely to bruise the right... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Calpurnia enters the courtroom. She tells Atticus that Jem, Scout, and Dill are missing. Mr. Underwood says they're sitting in the balcony. Atticus tells... (full context)
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An hour later, Scout, Jem, and Dill get back to the silent, tense courtroom. The jury is still deliberating. Jem... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Jem cries. He can't understand how the jury could convict Tom. Atticus says they've done it... (full context)
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That afternoon, Jem tells Miss Maudie he used to think the people of Maycomb were the best people... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Jem and Scout are terrified Ewell will attack Atticus. Atticus, thinks Ewell has already gotten the... (full context)
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...good shot of winning on appeal. If he loses, though, Tom will be executed. When Jem expresses disdain for the jury that convicted Tom, Atticus says that one man on the... (full context)
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Later that night, Scout and Jem try to figure out why people are prejudiced. They come up with all sorts of... (full context)
Chapter 25
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A few nights later, Scout spots a roly-poly bug. Jem won't let her squash it because it didn't do anything to her. Scout remembers that... (full context)
Chapter 26
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In school, Scout's class discusses Nazi Germany. Scout asks Jem why her teacher, Miss Gates, would say persecuting the Jews is awful when she seemed... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...and cloth. Atticus and Aunt Alexandra are too tired to attend the pageant, though, so Jem takes her. (full context)
Chapter 28
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...way to the pageant Cecil Jacobs jumps from behind a bush and scares Scout and Jem. Then Scout falls asleep and misses her cue to go onstage and is so embarrassed... (full context)
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As Jem and Scout walk home alone (Scout still in her costume) they hear a noise, and... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Atticus is sure Jem killed Bob Ewell and doesn't want it covered up. But Tate says that Jem didn't... (full context)
Chapter 31
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When she gets back, Atticus is reading in Jem's room. Scout asks Atticus to read to her and rests her head against his knee.... (full context)