To Kill a Mockingbird

by: Harper Lee

Jem

I thought I wanted to be a lawyer but I ain’t so sure now!

Jem shouts this line after he is sure that Atticus won’t be able to hear him. He is mad that Atticus got him to admit guilt using a lawyer’s trickery. While Jem’s grudging acceptance that Atticus got the best of him is funny, the line also foreshadows Jem’s development over the course of the novel. Jem will ultimately realize that his understanding of the legal system was naïve, and his view of the future will become shaped by the bitterness he feels after the Tom Robinson trial.

“Did she die free?” asked Jem.
“As the mountain air,” said Atticus.

Jem asks about the fate of Mrs. Dubose, a mean elderly woman who had committed to ending her morphine addiction before her death. In this moment Jem recognizes a lesson that Atticus hoped to teach him. Jem realizes that there is value and meaning in fighting for something good even if losing the fight is inevitable. Atticus hopes his children see a similar lesson in his decision to defend Tom Robinson even when the cost is high and there is no chance that the jury will not find Tom guilty.

Dill, I had to tell him....You can’t run three hundred miles off without your mother knowin‘.

Jem explains to Dill why Jem told Atticus that Dill had run away from home. This act is a betrayal and marks the turning point of Jem as no longer one of the children. He has begun to see the world at least partially as an adult would, and this leads to him having a much more painful experience of the racism and injustice that he encounters. Scout, who continues to see the world as a child would, experiences these difficulties differently.

Don’t see how any jury could convict on what we heard.

This line is one of many points in the novel where Jem indicates that he was sure that the jury would find Tom Robinson innocent. Jem is the only character convinced Tom would receive justice. Scout didn’t know what the jury would decide, while all of the adults, including Atticus, knew that the jury would find Tom guilty. The realization that he was so profoundly wrong about the community in which he lives drives the bitterness that haunts Jem for the last chapters of the novel.