This is a very early draft for my To Kill a Mockingbird essay, and any feedback would be appreciated. I need help to see if my writing style and points make sense, and if they are correct for this question:
"To Kill a Mockingbird is a Bildungsroman that mostly focuses on Scout growing up, but in a very real sense, it is also about Jem learning to become a man. What are the three major events in Jem's life that help him "come of age?"
What is maturity? Think about it for a moment. The dictionary definition describes as being "fully developed in body or mind, as a person". But to different people, it might mean different things. To one, it might mean taking on new responsibilities as they grow older; to another, it might mean learning to respect others. In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the main themes is maturity and coming of age. Although the process of growing up for the main character, Scout, is very prominent, the people close to her also grow throughout the two years that the novel takes place. Scout's brother, Jem, is advancing from a ten year old child into a young gentleman. Stopping fights, showing a newfound respect for the people around him and becoming trustworthy are only some of the ways Jem shows his maturity in this bildungsroman.
Jem's maturity begins to blossom in the third chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird. This is when he stops the fight going on between Scout and Walter and invites him over for dinner. To stop the fight, Jem pulls Scout off of Walter saying "You're bigger'n he is" (Lee 27). Inviting him to lunch shows that he understands that Walter couldn't help that Mrs Caroline got mad at Scout, and that he didn't deserve to be beat up for it. Jem had also heard from Atticus that the Cunningham's aren't able to pay with money but are able to pay their debts back some other way. He cannot fix his family's financial situation, and Jem recognizes that. He invites Walter to his house for dinner because he knows that Walter doesn't have anything to eat. He also has pleasant conversation with him on the way home, just like Atticus does with him at the dinner table. This is the beginning of showing respect to people that he wouldn't normally show it to.
Whether it's finding respect for authority, or for yourself and the people around you, it's is a big part of growing up and maturing. For Jem, it started with showing respect towards Atticus. Growing up, he thought that Atticus was a "cold blanket", and because he wasn't like the other fathers, he was deemed an embarrassment by his children. He had preferred reading to playing football outside, and Jem had thought him dull and uninteresting. An example of this is when Scout had said, "Jem was football crazy. Atticus was never too tired to play keep-away, but when Jem wanted to tackle him, Atticus would say, 'I'm too old for that, son'" (Lee 93). This, however, started to change as he grew older. Jem's respect for Atticus comes from an unexpected situation; when he had to shoot the rabid dog. After finding out that his father was the best shot in the county, and that he gave up hunting because he realized that he had an unfair privilege over other creatures, Jem had more of a reason to respect him. He also ironically become like Atticus; Jem wants to be like him in the way as an educated, southern gentleman;. He ultimately becomes a reflection of his father.
To become more like Atticus, Jem would have to prove that he is trustworthy. He clearly demonstrates this when he directly goes directly to his father after finding that Dill had run away from home. This is an example of Jem doing the right thing, rather than the popular, or what his sister and Dill wanted him to do. This is very adult-like as it shows that Jem has finally been able to rationalize and analyze the situation, and to put himself in the shoes of Dill's parents should they be worried. Although Scout said, "he broke the remaining code of our childhood" (Lee 143), Jem knew that Atticus had to know that Dill was there for his own safety. He recognizes that Atticus had to know, "Dill, I had to tell him", he said, "You can't run three hundred miles off without your mother knowin" (Lee 144). A part of maturing and growing up is learning how to differentiate the right from wrong. For Jem this was particularly hard, because he didn't want to get his friend in trouble, but he also wanted to gain the trust of Atticus by showing him he cares about his friend's well being.
Acting as an adult by stopping a fight between his sister and a boy at school, giving respect to the people around him, and showing that he is worthy of his father's trust, are only some of the ways that Jem has shown how he has grown into maturity. Although coming of age is different for everybody, for Jem it was about finding his place in Maycomb and taking on new responsibilities that would lead him to become a mature young adult. Albeit, the novel doesn't go on long enough to see Jem be fully developed in body, but the way that he becomes developed mentally as a person is evident through the book.
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Jessie, switch around the sentences in the first paragraph in order to make it more interesting to the professor who will be reading it. If you open with a discussion of the characters first and then close with the definition of maturity, the paragraph gets a strong thesis statement and presentation as well. That way, you focus on the novel first, the definition second. since the concentration should be on the characters development, the definition of maturity should be secondary because you are defining it as coming from a lexical source.
For the closing statement, you should try to come up with a personal definition of maturity based upon the events depicted in the book in relation to the character of Jem. That is one way of closing the essay in a unique manner. Basing your personal definition of maturity on your understanding of Jem's life means that you really understand the underlying factors, discussion, and events, as presented in the book, in relation to the undefined maturity that exists for the character.