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Character Analysis Of Jem Finch To Kill A Mockingbird

Jem Finch

To Kill A Mockingbird is undoubtedly one of the most famous novels by any American author. It is a classic tale about racial tensions & injustice, class, compassion, righteousness, and loss of innocence, set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Missouri, in the 1960s. Harper Lee was the brains behind the book who weaved a tale around a real-life incident during her childhood in Monroeville, Alabama. Her novel touches upon extremely sensitive subjects and explores the vastly contrasting nature of the human mind, and how upbringing & experiences have a profound effect on the development & evolution of the mind.

We witness the world and events in To Kill A Mockingbird through the eyes of two children. In contrast, the events and people of the world affect both young minds profoundly; today's article focuses on one of them, particularly Jeremy Finch, the deuteragonist, the brother of the novel’s narrator, Jean Finch, and the son of Atticus Finch.

Jem finch

A Bildungsroman Novel Involving Jem Finch

To Kill A Mockingbird is a multifaceted novel. Literary critics define it as a Southern Gothic novel with multiple central themes intertwined together. Chief amongst such themes is Bildungsroman, a literary theme that centers around a youthful main character's gradual moral, intellectual, and overall mental development. In this novel, it is the son of one of the story’s protagonists, Atticus Finch, a respected lawyer with a deeply founded sense of righteousness, decency, and equality.

Jeremy or Jem Finch, the youngest child of Atticus Finch, encountered the dark and harsh realities of contemporary society after his father became the defendant of a murder suspect, Tom Robinson, a black man. The events surrounding the trial would leave an indelible mark on his psyche as Jem gets exposed to the damaging impulses & convoluted machinations emanating from the dark recesses of the human mind.

Among the many themes of To Kill A Mockingbird, the primary ones were the gradual loss of innocence and a child’s awakening to racism, prejudice, harassment, segregation, and the dark aspects of the human mind. Harper Lee highlighted some of the most controversial and prominent societal issues in contemporary American society through her novel. Through these themes, Lee portrayed coming of age & maturity through the novel's deuteragonist, Jeremy Finch.


 Jeremy Finch

 Jeremy Finch

The Stages In Jem Finch’s Character Development

At the novel's beginning, Jem exhibits many traits of a normal American boy.

  1. Jeremy is joyous and youthful
  2. He looks up to his father, a respected lawyer with concrete convictions and high-held ideals, and wishes to become a lawyer just like him.
  3. He is an avid fan of American Football.
  4. Jem is shown to be just as fun-loving and impulsive as his sister Jean.
  5. However, unlike Jean, Jem thinks a bit more deeply and exhibits an unnaturally high level of maturity for his age.

The young man is portrayed to be more mature, thoughtful, and observant, he experiences hatred, racism, a mob attack, injustice, and the rippling effects of rape & murder. His young mind comes close to the worst humanity has to offer but also some of its best traits. As the novel progresses, Jeremy’s thoughts, ideas, and perception of society, its systems, and its inhabitants change drastically when his father takes on the case of Tom Robinson.

Jem finch with sister

 Sister and Brother


The Changes Begin

In the beginning, Jem is portrayed to be much more level-headed than his sister Jean. He is mature, even-tempered, and reasonable and has often been the voice of reason. Jeremy rebuking Jean when she physically attacks Walter is a prime example of his even-tempered and reasonable nature. Jeremy is portrayed as curious and imaginative as his younger sister but also more considerate and thoughtful.

And it is this thoughtfulness that is a key trait of Jem’s character.  

An Unnaturally Mature Child - The boy exhibits deep thinking abilities, quite in contrast to his youthful and innocent side. Jem's thoughtful and reflective nature is a primary reason why subsequent events had a big impact on his mind, changing & maturing him.

An Ideal Upbringing - Jeremy Finch can be considered the novel’s deuteragonist. He is thoughtful, level-headed, determined, and resolute; he takes upon his father and is surprisingly mature for his age. He is a brave and curious young kid who is unafraid to stand up for his beliefs. His father firmly believes in decency, righteousness, and equality, and Jem shares those traits with him. Another notable characteristic that Jem shares with his father is a clear and strong sense of justice.

Jeremy's sense of justice, social equality, and human decency is shaken due to the events surrounding the Robinson trial. His father is labeled a "nigger-lover” by many of the townsfolk and all the Finches were subjected to substantial unfounded negativity for supporting a convicted black man. Yet, the two young children persevered thanks to their upbringing by a stern, righteous, and considerate man of firm resolution.

The Downsides of Being a Deep Thinker - Jeremy Finch’s thoughtful nature affected him much more by the transpiring events. He dwelled deeper into the hostility his family was facing and everything else happening. And this deep thinking accelerates the transformation of his views & nature. As the novel progresses, he becomes moodier & his temper gets the better of him. Jem begins to brood and spend more time alone.

A drastic change in his temperament and personality becomes evident in his outburst against Mrs. Dubose. While Jem and Jean never thought highly of her and were used to her bad behavior, Jem’s outburst towards her was unexpected & was indicative of a drastic change in his character.

Jem's father and sister

 The Father, The Daughter, & The Son

Jem’s First Outburst

Atticus was the biggest influence on young Jem’s mind, and he had taught him not to retaliate against Mrs. Dubose's scathing remarks. But, the primary event of the novel, the trial of Tom Robinson, took a heavy toll on his mind. Jem couldn’t stand Mrs. Dubose’s remark about Atticus defending a ‘nigger’ & her demeaning comments about the Finch bloodline triggered him in the worst way.

The Dubose Incident - A boy of a calm & composed disposition threw caution to the wind and acted, unlike his nature, by cutting off all the heads of Mrs. Dubose's camellia bushes. And, as Jean cried out after Jem’s shocking outburst, he kicked her to the ground. Such was the effect of maturing through tough experiences.

Atticus was shocked and rebuked Jem for his behavior. He asked him to go and apologize to Mrs. Dubose. Atticus was quite appalled at Jem’s unexpected reaction and understood very well that his thoughtful son was affected substantially by this sudden change that came over his son.

Yet, this outburst inadvertently brought Jem and Jean closer to Mrs. Dubose. Jem was tasked with reading to Mrs. Dubose for a month. The younglings were scared and disdainful of her but somewhat intrigued by her antics. She dies soon after, and Atticus reveals how Mrs. Dubose was very sick for a long time as well as a morphine addict. Atticus goes on to say how she used Jem’s reading sessions as distractions to combat her addiction urges, how she died free from her morphine addiction with her held high, her beliefs intact, and a newly funded affection for Jem & the Finches.

Jem’s encounter and interactions with Mrs. Dubose significantly impacted his mind and character. Through Mrs. Dubose and Atticus' reflections on her, Harper Lee highlighted the subjective nature of morality, the true meaning of courage, and the need for understanding differing perspectives.

Further Changes

Jem starts acting aloof as days go by. He acts all silent and brooding, drowned in his thoughts. This is reflective of a drastic change in Jem’s character. He is coming to terms with perspectives & behavior that were, until now, entirely alien to him. In all probability, he was assimilating ideas and comparing them with his outlook & views of the world & people around him.

Facing A Mob Attack - Just before the trial, Atticus confronted a crowd hellbent on lynching Tom Robinson. Jem and Jean show immense bravery by staying by their father's side when the maddened crowd attacks the county jail.  

After Jean recognizes one among the attacking crowd & appeals to their emotions, the mob disperses. But the children, Jem, Jean, and their friend Dill, are left dumbfounded and with many questions. Jeremy Finch, in particular, can't understand why those men attacked and also why Atticus was not mad at them.

It is then that Atticus talks to Jem about reason and common sense, & how many times people forget to act reasonably.

The Lost Trial - The trial and the eventual guilty verdict of Tom Robinson were major events. It revealed the biased and partial nature of the state's justice system. It made Jem realize that, despite strong arguments & lack of definitive evidence, the white-majority jury dubbed Tom Robinson guilty, simply because he was black. He was finding it very difficult to come to terms with the verdict and his ideas about the legal system, which he wished to become a part of, were shaken substantially.

Atticus The Guide - Jem and Atticus are prime examples of the ideal father-son duo. Apart from their upbringing, Atticus' frequent discussions with Jem about different things played key roles in developing his character and shaping his personality.

Jeremy Finch was appalled at the injustice meted out by the system supposed to uphold law and order. He cannot understand why, despite evidence to the contrary, the trial verdict was so unfair. The boy broke down after the verdict was declared and both he & Atticus agreed that it wasn’t right.

And, despite struggling to come to terms with the trial's ending, Jeremy would soon understand the reasons why the jury went against Atticus and the defendant, the black man, Tom Robinson.

Jem’s Realizations

Chapter 21 of the novel is when the verdict is declared. After that, Jeremy Finch begins questioning the people and the society he lives in. His ideas and convictions, his understanding of right and wrong, his belief in the judicial system, and the good townsfolk of Maycomb County.

Jem's coming of age is quite apparent in his precocious response/question to Miss Maudie. And, Miss Maudie's response and explanation were another lesson for young Jem. Jem’s shaken faith in the judicial system and the general folk of the county were re-affirmed as Miss Maudie pointed out how there was a reason why Atticus was chosen to defend Tom Robinson. Miss Maudie pointed out that no one expected Atticus to win, but his appointment was a message to the supporters of racial bigotry & injustice.

A loud and clear message that not all white folks are like them.


Jem was shocked by the hatred and prejudices many of the townsfolk harbored towards Tom Robinson and the Finches for supporting him. Yet, a discussion with Miss Maudie was a salve to his injured conscience and perspectives. Atticus then soothed the troubled psyche of his son by responding to Jem’s queries & doubts about the legal system and the need for jurors. Son and father together reflect on the result of the trial and the overall nature of the state’s judicial system.

The Father-Son Bond - Atticus talks about men and their reasoning capabilities. He states how sometimes certain things cloud men’s reasons. Atticus points out the mob attack and draws a connection between that frenzied crowd & the jury of the trial. He also notes that things never remain the same and the existing system will surely change.

Jem’s Many Interactions - Throughout the novel, Jem interacts with different characters, and every one of those interactions rubs off on him. Whether it is with Mrs. Dubose, their black housemaid Calpurnia, Miss Maudie, Jean, or Dill, Jem understands the world gradually and becomes a bit wiser every time. These interactions, discussions with his father, and all the events surrounding the trial serve as prominent learning experiences for this fine young man.

Through A Different Looking Glass - Jeremy, like every other kid his age, is trying to understand the world around him. He is trying to find his place and make sense of the people & the systems and how things occur. His mindset and perspective, the looking glass through which he views the world, are way too idealistic for his world. And, all these interactions, experiences, and discussions changed his outlook and personality.

A Dynamic Father-Son Duo - As the novel progresses, Jem mimics Atticus. He always exhibits significant moral courage and remains steadfast in his beliefs & convictions. Jeremy also becomes much more accepting that different perspectives and kinds of folks exist in the people. Jem Finch exhibits substantial moral and mental courage by standing by his father during the mob attack and getting up, close, & personal with Mrs. Dubose.

Yet, he was still a little child. His coping skills were still developing, and he was always on the edge. Atticus knew how mature and resolute his son was; simultaneously, he understood that his son had been going through a lot since he decided to defend Tom. He knew he had to remain close and give him time and space to cope with all the shock, disappointment, trauma, and complexities.

Bob Ewell’s confrontation and Boo Radley's timely rescue were vastly different but significant lessons for this thoughtful, swiftly maturing child.

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Why Did Bob Ewell Attack Jem and Scout

The mob attack, the guilty verdict, and Tom Robinson's death took a heavy toll on that young mind.

Then there was Bob Ewell.

Bob Ewell was the father of Mayela Ewell, the white girl Tom Robinson was accused of raping. Despite the verdict, the Ewells are labeled white trash and liars by the townsfolk due to their rotten behavior, lack of education, and any form of decency. The Ewells were never considered decent or trustable by the common folk anyway. That is why Bob Ewell was excessively angry with Atticus Finch for demeaning and destroying whatever image Ewell had in society. He spat in Atticus’ face and swore vengeance on both the Robinsons & the Finches.

The event occurs in chapter 28 of the novel. It was the last day of October. Jem and Jean were returning from the Halloween festivities at the local school grounds when Bob Ewell attacked them. He craftily followed the brother and sister on their way back home & then assaulted them, intending to murder or worse. Jeremy fought back and broke his arm as a result. Bob Ewell tried to strangle Jean to death, but an old acquaintance came to their rescue. The reclusive and mysterious Boo Radley fought & rescued the two kids.

This attack was like a test for young Jeremy Finch, who passed with flying colors. Jem had the courage and temperament to take on the attacker. Here was a man willing to murder children, an embodiment of pure evil, and Jem fought him without any second thought. While the event was another traumatic incident in a line of long ones, it was also a revelation for fast-maturing Jeremy Finch.

But the sudden appearance of Arthur “Boo” Radley was anything but traumatic.

Arthur Radley is a Godsend

Bob Ewell and Boo Radley are polar opposites. And, both of them played key roles in the novel and the character development of Jeremy Finch. Bob Ewell's attack taught Jem Finch always to be wary of lost people and have no hope of finding the light ever again. And the appearance of Boo Radley showed Jem that goodness could appear from the most unlikely places.

Jeremy Finch’s a priori belief that the world was a good place and every one of its inhabitants is good-natured. The events of the story change his outlook and perspectives and help him mature as a person & almost destroying his belief in the goodness & decency of the average folk as well as the legal system. Yet, he stands firm and resolute in his beliefs, questioning his father and others close to him about everything wrong that's been going on.

Ultimately, Jem Finch becomes a better, more mature human being. He is now wiser, warier, more accepting, more courageous, and more prepared to stand for what's right. Jeremy Atticus Finch goes through significant trials and tribulations and succeeds in overcoming them all with his sister, father, and some decent town folk. He learns to comprehend several complex aspects of the human psyche, such as racial prejudices, differing perspectives, reason vs. impulse, etc.

However, in the process, he loses his innocence.

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Some Final Musings

Harper Lee’s iconic novel has two children as its centerpieces. Two innocent minds guide readers through the world and events of To Kill A Mockingbird, their naivety, innocence, and ideal upbringing in stark contrast with a morally dubious society. The author uses Jem and Jean to show how all humans are born with an innate sense of decency, morals, and ideals. And, how it is society, events, and experiences that bring forth drastic changes.

The changes that came over Jem would have, in probability, come over any child. However, given the nature of events and circumstances that brought forth such changes, they could have been for the worse, had it not been for a father like Atticus and his idealistic upbringing.

The novel's timeline spans three years and in those three years, the young, energetic, & thoughtful Jeremy Finch becomes wiser about the world around him. His ideas and outlook undergo a drastic change &, inadvertently allowing him to understand the world and his father much better.

And that wraps up our article on the character analysis of To Kill A Mockingbird's, Jem Finch. Hope all the insights within helped you understand one of the most characters in this timeless classic and leaves you better informed than before.

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 Zara William
Zara William

Zara William is one of the brilliant minds behind the archive of blog at Her content educates, inspires, and entertains. Explore the world of writing and discover how words can shape thoughts and transform lives!

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