How do Scout and Jem view their father in Chapters 1-11 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Jem and Scout both respect their father, and they are careful not to allow him to find out about some of their secretive neighborhood activities, such as playing the Radley game and making raids on the Radley property at night. But they know that Atticus has his ways of discovering their secrets, and Scout is amazed how Atticus knew she was eavesdropping on his conversation with his brother Jack at Christmas ("I never figured out how Atticus knew I was listening") or how he found out that it was the children who Nathan Radley chased from his back yard with a shotgun. As the children grew older, however, they became embarrassed about Atticus's advanced age, his lack of "manlinless," his wearing glasses, and his being "feeble."

     Our father didn't do anything. He worked in an office... did not farm, work in a garage, or do anything that could possibly arouse the admiration of anyone.  (Chapter 10)

Additionally, Atticus didn't drink, smoke, hunt, fish or play poker like "our schoolmates' fathers did. He sat in the livingroom and read."

Miss Maudie tried to explain that Atticus was a great checkers player (which Scout didn't believe since Atticus always lost to her), that he played the Jew's Harp, and that he could "make somebody's will so airtight can't anybody meddle with it." But none of this impressed Jem and Scout until the day when Tim Johnson, the mad dog, came wobbling down their street, and they discovered Atticus's hidden talent: that as a youth, he was "deadest shot in Maycomb County..." When Jem wondered why Atticus had never bragged about this skill, Maudie explained that "People in their right minds never take pride in their talents." The children learned a lesson in humility, and Jem's shame turned to pride in his father.

"I couldn't care if he couldn't do a blessed thing...
Atticus is a gentleman, just like me!"  (Chapter 10)

Jem is angry with Atticus in Chapter 11 after he is forced to read for Mrs. Dubose for a month as punishment for destroying her prize camellias. In the end, Jem is taught a lesson about the different forms of human bravery, and how courage is not always "a man with a gun in his hand."h


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