The Ways that Lee Presents Jems Education in “To Kill a Mockingbird” Essay Sample

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The most important form of education that Jem gets is moral education through Atticus. He knows the wrongs of the education system in Maycomb and thus is left only with his home being his educator and his father’s interpretation of the experiences in Maycomb.

In the beginning, Jem does not understand why his father is not like all the other fathers but is “old and blind in the left eye”. He takes this as something negative because there is nothing his father can do that he can be proud of or boast about in front of his classmates. He does not understand that his father’s “unpleasant job” is what will bring about change in Maycomb. Once Miss Maudie has taught him the significance of his father’s job and that he was “born to do this unpleasant job for them”, he begins to take his father’s words more seriously and to have him as a role model. The idea Miss Maudie teaches him about the fact that he “was born” to be this way shows how committed he is to this role, perhaps it seems unfortunate but he takes it on anyway (courage) because he understands that someone has to do it in order to save Maycomb. Atticus’s blindness in the “left eye” also becomes a significant part of the novel because at the end, we realise that the idea that he can only see with his right eye shows that he only views people and events the “right” way due to its religious connotations. This change in opinion of his father is what leads Jem to want to be like his father and to understand that the attitudes of the majority are not always the right ones thus have courage to be different.

Atticus, though the incident with Miss Debose, teaches Jem about the true meaning of courage. The juxtaposition of this event with the shooting of the mad dog in the previous chapter highlights the contrast between what Maycomb thinks is courageous (a man “with a gun in his hand”) and what real courage is (“when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway”). Miss Debose’s overcoming of the morphine addiction despite its withdrawal symptoms can be likened to Atticus trying to overcome the prejudice ways of society despite the fact that he will be attacked and perhaps even threatened by those who think he is a “nigger lover”. Jem is surprised to see his father call Miss Debose “the bravest person he’d ever seen” despite everything she had said about him. In this, he is teaching his child not to be individualistic and consider events from his perspective only but to “climb into others’ skin” because it is this empathy that will allow the society to end prejudice and to accept others as they are.

Jem’s maturation and the taking on of his father’s ways is apparent in the scene where his father is under threat from the mob. Jem, on realising this, refuses to leave his father. This highlights how Jem now understands the dangers of his father’s role and that, unlike his father thought, he will be abandoned and attacked by the rest of society. The fact that, although he realises this, is still consistent with his father foreshadows how he will continue this struggle in the future. The disobeying of his father in itself is significant. Even though his father is the closest to being good, he understands that he is almost too good and trusting of the people to be able to survive (like in his judgement of Bob’s murder in the end). Jem, therefore, will not take his opinions or attitudes from anyone as they are but will shape them for himself. This foreshadows how he will become even better than his father in this fight for change.

Jem not only grows to be like his father but is also able to challenge his father in aspects where perhaps he can go wrong. I think this is because he has seen both his father’s world and the world of Maycomb and the attitudes within it. This means he can shape his morals and attitudes and at the same time take into account how society will react towards them and not completely isolate himself like his father does.

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