The role of maturity in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is extremely vital in the character development of Jem and Scout throughout the novel. In the duration of the plot one can observe how Jem and Scout are initially and innately immature and are not able to comprehend the events that occur and engulf their juvenile consciouses. As the story progresses Jem and Scout are molded through actions such as Tom Robinson’s court case, the Mrs. Dubose incident, Atticus’s teachings and Boo Radley that occur around them and shape Jem and Scout into the products that are procured by the end of the book. All of these incidents transform Jem and Scout from their former juvenile state to the mature young adults they become by the conclusion of the novel. To understand how Jem and Scout evolve during the plot one must first fully understand what their initial maturity level was at the commencement of the work.
The initiation of the piece shows that Jem and Scout are far below the basic levels of an average child’s maturity. This is shown through many actions, reactions and experiences that occur around Jem and Scout. There are several different examples of how Scout is portrayed as immature by Harper Lee. One such instance is Scout’s obsession with fighting other children and rubbing their faces in the dirt because she is more powerful than the other children. This occurs in several instances. Scout recounts one such occurrence as “Catching Walter Cunningham in the schoolyard gave me some pleasure, but when I was rubbing his nose in the dirt Jem came by and told me to stop” (30). Through this excerpt from the story, as well as the actions by Scout within the text, we are able to see that at this time Scout is very immature, which is displayed by her unprovoked assualt of Walter Cunningham. This immaturity, as the story progresses, is eradicated and vanishes into thin air. Not only does Scout act immaturely in the beginning of the story, but Jem displays childish behavior as well. When Jem and Scout encounter Dill, their friend from out of town, they explain Boo Radley to him. Boo is a mysterious, shady character to Jem, Scout and Dill. In a burst of inquiry Dill questions, ‘“Wonder what he looks like?”’ (16). Jem responds by describing what he believes to be Boo’s physical appearance of: “Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands were bloodstained… There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time” (30). Scout expresses that she believes this is a “reasonable description of Boo” (30). As the reader continues the novel, one discovers that Boo is none of these traits. This is a sheer error in the actuality of the plot in the story, and shines as a beacon of the immaturity displayed through Jem’s description and Scout’s concurrence. As transitions occur within the work such as school starting and Dill going home, changes begin to occur plaited within the bodies and minds of Jem and Scout. One event is when Atticus is lecturing Scout, he explains: ‘“If you can learn a simple trick Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view’” (39).
With this advice in hand, Scout and Jem progress towards maturity, and become closer with each key event that guides them down their path. Scout commences her journey when Jem returns from the Radley’s house with his mended pants, and murky thoughts of what his fate could have been. Scout contemplates Atticus’s advice with her thoughts of: “As Atticus once advised me to do, I tried to climb into Jem’s skin and walk around in it: if I had gone alone to the Radley Place at two in the morning, my funeral would have been held the next afternoon. So I left Jem alone and tried not to bother him” (77). This is the first sign of Scout maturing into a young adult because she is displaying her ability to hold back unwanted investigations into Jem’s unfortunate experiences that spooky night. The examples continue when Scout finds a “roly-poly” bug on the floor, and Scout asks Jem “‘Why couldn’t I mash him?’ ‘Because they don’t bother you,’ Jem answered in the darkness” (320). Through this simple exchange of dialogue, one is able to see that Jem is learning to cope with the trial easier and is more calm and composed even when one can clearly and easily infer that he is extremely frustrated with the jury’s verdict. Tom Robinson’s trial is also a major turning point in the battle of maturity for Jem and Scout. Jem and Scout originally have not been exposed to the ploys of racism, but Tom Robinson’s trial blows the guilelessness door off its hinges. Initially Jem and Scout are verbally abused by many people because their father is defending an African American. Jem and Scout do not understand why, and Jem finally cracks from Ms. Dubose’s continuous stream of verbal assualts. Harper Lee firmly words the incident as “He did not begin to calm down until he had cut the tops off every camellia bush Mrs. Dubose owned, until the ground was littered with green buds and leaves” (137). This displays Jem’s immaturity because of his lack of self-control, but the repercussions of his actions echo loudly with him being forced to read to Ms Dubose for a month. At the conclusion of Jem’s sentence, he has obtained a new sense of control and sympathy for others and realizes that he must set the example for Scout. Scout and Jem become more understanding as well when Scout comes to realize why Atticus is taking this side of the court case that brings what seems to be nothing but perpetual verbal abuse. This is comprehended through the quote “This was news, news that put a different light on things. Atticus had to, whether he wanted to or not. … He Had to, that is why he was doing it, equaled fewer fights and less fussing” (196). Scout and Jem are now able to comprehend why Atticus is taking Tom Robinson’s case, not because Atticus is being forced to, but because it is the right thing to do. Atticus wants justice to be served properly and without prejudice. He wants Jem and Scout to know also that he is setting a vital example in the battle of good and evil. With this knowledge in hand, Jem and Scout are able to see society differently. They grasp the idea that they should do what is right even if everyone else disagrees. Lastly, Jem, Scout and Dill are able to come to their senses about Boo Radley. Initially, Jem and Scout believe that Boo is a ravaging, bloodied monster, although Jem and Scout realize that their superficial image of Boo is overly erroneous. The night Jem and Scout are ambushed by Bob Ewell in a drunken stupor, Boo counters Mr. Ewell’s vicious onslaught and disarms Bob, while terminating Mr. Ewell and rescuing Jem and Scout from inevitable peril. Following this encounter, Scout comes face to face with her childhood fear; Boo Radley. Scout notices and contemplates how Boo really appears as “They were white hands, sickly white hands that had never seen the sun, so white they stood out garishly against the dull cream wall in the dim light of Jem’s room. […] [m]y eyes traveled up his thin frame to his torn denim shirt. His face was as white as his hands, but for a shadow on his jutting chin. His cheeks were thin to hollowness; his mouth was wide; there were shallow, almost delicate indentations at his temples, and his gray eyes were so colorless I thought he was blind. His hair was dead and thin, almost feathery on top of his head” (362). Scout then does not run, yell or cowl away in fear. She instead only says “‘Hey, Boo.’”. Through this contradiction to former popular belief within Scout’s mind, Scout matures whether she conscious of it or not. She does not act with immaturity when she acknowledges Boo, and instead gives him a friendly salutation. One can see that she clearly has evolved from her childish past and immature views. These events are clearly seen as the catalysts for the change from immaturity to maturity. One can infer from their encounters that Jem and Scout are clearly different people after their experiences and they are much more mature.
With the actions of Jem and Scout farther along in the novel one can infer that as Jem and Scout grow older and experience new and different events they become more mature. One such example of Scout’s rearing maturity can be seen when she contemplates to herself “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” (374). This shows that Scout has now shown that she is able to apply the teachings of Atticus into her own situations and is astronomically more understanding of others predicaments as well as her own. Due to this she has matured because she is know capable of “standing in another man’s shoes”, and understanding their point of view. An example of how one can comprehend the complete overhaul in Jem’s maturity is when the speaks to Scout, “‘Scout, I think I’m beginning to understand something. I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all this time. It’s because he wants to stay inside.”’ (301). With this statement from Jem one can clearly infer that Jem has overcome his previous invisions and fantasies of Boo Radley, and has come to a clearly, more realistic idea of what actually is occuring with Boo. Jem can now realize that the things people do are none of his business and if they want to stay inside, such as Boo does, then they can and Jem cannot do anything about it. Jem can also be seen as a fully matured young man when he defends Scout in the struggle against Bob Ewell. Jem and Scout are ambushed, and Jem takes initiative and does all he can to protect his younger sister. Jem tells Scout to run and as they run they are pulled to the ground by Bob. Jem overcomes, picks himself up and pounces upon Mr. Ewell so as to save his one and only sister. Jem could have been expedient, run away and left Scout to fend for herself, but he had attained his immaculate goal of maturity and does all he can to assist in the epic battle between himself, Scout and the ravaging Bob Ewell. As one can infer from the several examples that are displayed from Jem and Scout proceeding their catalytic maturity experiences, they have worked for, and attained ultimate maturity for themselves. This not only benefits Jem and Scout, but all of their peers opinions of the two as well.