Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird: Loss of Innocence

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In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, loss of innocence is seen specifically with the characters of Jem Finch and Boo Radley.

For Jem, who has watched his father try cases for many years, he believes that in court, justice prevails. He believes completely that Tom Robinson will be found innocent because Atticus has been able to provide reasonable doubt: Tom could not have beaten Mayella because he has no use of his left arm. However, justice is not served in the court trial: prejudice and bigotry take the day, and Jem is crushed.

Judge Taylor was polling the jury: 'Guilty...guilty...guilty...guilty...' I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each "guilty" was a separate stab between them... (end of Chapter 21)

It was Jem's turn to cry. His face was streaked with angry tears as we made our way through the cheerful crowd. 'It ain't right,' he muttered, all the way to the corner of the square where we found Atticus waiting... (beginning of Chapter 22)

The other example of a loss of innocence deals with Boo Radley. When Boo (Arthur) Radley was a teenager, he took up with a wild group of kids. When they were caught breaking the law, all of the others were sent away to a "school" for juvenile delinquents...except for Boo. He was left in the jail until the town made his family take him home. Though rumors of his life after the incident abounded, one thing was sure: Boo was not allowed to leave the house again by daylight for twenty-five years.

Boo and his friends were wild and disrespectful, but nothing they had done warranted the abuse that was heaped upon Boo, year after year. When Boo's father dies, Nathan (Boo's brother) comes to town and continues as Boo's "jailer." Whoever Boo might have been is destroyed at the hands of his family.

The result of the Radley's treatment of Boo is reflected in Sheriff Heck Tate's comments to Atticus about protecting Boo after he saved Scout and Jem from...