Key Themes in TKAM


Growing up

  • the bildungsroman form clearly sets the novel out to show development in the characters of scout and especially jem (displayed in chapter 7)
  • scout grows an awerness of the world around her
  • written retrospectively - older scout contemplating on her childhood
  • scout's niavety is highlighted when the reader understand events better than scout herself (childish narration also provides a humourous aspect)
  • Some lessons that Scout learns include:
  • chapter 3 when Cal talks about the importance of politness being show towards everyone
  • from Atticus: to be tolerant, to react calmly to events (Chapter 9), to be able to turn the other cheek, to appreciate different kinds of courage (chapters 10 and 11)
  • from Aunt Alexandra: the value of being a 'lady' (chapter 24)
  • from Heck Tate and Atticus: the destructive implications of society's prejudice (from the trail onwards), even if Scout has not yet been able to appreciate fully why prejudice exists 
  • by the end of the novel Scout has successfully learnt Atticus's key lesson - seeing things from other peoples perspective (links to his maxim) 
  • we witness a dramatic change in jem and scout's behaviour towards Boo, linking to the gossip at the commencement of the novel that was influenced by the older generations, and the acceptance that Scout shows towards Boo at the end of TKAM
  • The start of Jem's maturing is marked when:
  • he goes to retrieve his trousers (chapter 6) - which could also be seen as linking to the key theme of courage
  • he organises the building of the snowman - not seeing this as a game, but taking a mature approach to finding resources (Chapter 8)
  • he begins to recognise Boo's human side (chapter 8) and the childish games end
  • he begins to hide his emotions at the end of Chapter 7
  • Jem gradually becomes more spearate from Dill and Scout, particularly after his punishment involving Mrs Dubose (Chapter 11)
  • Miss Maudie gives him a slice from the big cake (chapter 22) which is symbolic of his transition from childhoos to adulthood
  • cal starts calling him 'Mister Jem' in chapter 12 (interestingly also the beginning of part 2)
  • he starts enouraging Scout to be a tomboy, going against societal norm
  • takes the mature approach by telling Atticus that Dill has run away
  • in Chapter 23, Jem is proud of his first sign of physical maturity 
  • shows and emotional response to the jury's verdict in the trail (Chapters 22-23)
  • jem struggles to come to terms with the adult world
  • chapter 28 - jem attempts to make scout feel better about her mistake in the pageant, replicating the response of his father in this situation 
  • Tips for analysing this theme:
  • refer to the fact that it is easier to chart Jem's growing up than scout's because it is easier to report about another character than to record what is happening to oneself. 
  • jem's age means that he bridges into two distinct periods, from childhood to adolescence, thus his growing up is more radical, and is


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