Although Atticus is a stern disciplinarian, the children are essentially happy about his discipline in To Kill a Mockingbird. Why?
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It is obvious that Jem and Scout have a special relationship with their father: They call him by his first name, Atticus--an unusual way for young children of any era to address a parent. Scout does not miss her mother--she died soon after Scout was born--and Jem barely remembers her, so Atticus serves as both mom and dad. Atticus believes in giving the children as much independence as possible, and they have a liberal run of the immediate neighborhood. But Atticus has ways of keeping an eye on their activities, and he surprises them more than once when he uncovers their supposed secrets (such as the Radley Game and the children's raid on the Radleys' back porch). The children are aware of Atticus's all-seeing powers and, combined with his lawyering skill of getting to the truth of the matter, they are wary of taking advantage of him. When Jem returns to the collard patch to retrieve his lost pants, he does so because he doesn't want Atticus to catch him in a lie.
"I--it's like this, Scout... Atticus ain't ever whipped me since I can remember. I wanta keep it that way." (Chapter 6)
Although the children often worry about Atticus giving them a "lickin'," Atticus doesn't resort to corporal punishment with his children. When Scout decides not to fight Cecil Jacobs at Christmastime, it is not out of fear of a spanking.
Somehow, if I fought Cecil I would let Atticus down. Atticus so rarely asked Jem and me to do something for him... (Chapter 9)
There are times when the children think Atticus is too old or inadequate, but when they discover his secret shooting skill and nickname ("Ol' One-Shot Finch"), they realize he is not only the best lawyer in town, but the best sharpshooter as well. When they compare Atticus with some of the other fathers in the novel, Atticus certainly looks good in their eyes. He is respected by the entire town, always running unopposed for the state legislature. Atticus provides them with the necessities of life; they don't go hungry (like the Cunninghams); he believes in a good education (unlike Bob Ewell); he is a hands-on father (unlike Dill's or Cousin Francis's parents); and, despite his busy schedule, he always has time to read to Scout each night. Jem and Scout recognize that they have it pretty good with Atticus Finch as their guide.
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