To kill a mocking bird

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Why is the incident with the mad dog important to Jem’s development

The mad dog incident is significant to Jem’s development: transition from childhood to adulthood. In this scene Jem’s respect for Atticus is taken to another level when he realises that there is so much more to his father than he could of imagined.  

Prior to the shooting Jem’s relationship with his father is uncomplicated and naïve. Both Scout and Jem consider their father to be old and limited and they base this on his age

‘Atticus was feeble: he was nearly fifty’.

The mocking bird is the most significant symbol in the novel and first appears in chapter 10.  When Atticus is telling the children how to use their shotguns he says ‘ Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit’em, but remember it s a sin to shoot a mocking bird’. At this point this appears not to have an impact on Jem, unlike Scout who looks for reinforcement from Miss Maudie. It is not until later that Jem realises the importance of his father’s words: Mrs Dubose’s scene and the trial. Harper Lee make this reference here to show how this facilitates the growth of the childrens’ views and attitudes.

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The talk of Atticus’ limitations is included to highlight the stark contrast of his marksmanship skills. Again, Harper Lee uses wisdom and maturity to encourage the children to reflect upon the actions of others. Miss Maudie is instrumental in attempting to encourage the children to appreciate Atticus and refrain from looking at him superficially. Quote – If your father was thirty you’d find life quite different’

Atticus concealed his shooting skills from his children, until such a time dictated. He was mindful of influencing their views and understanding of what constitutes courage. He is very aware of ...

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