How do Dill's, Scout's and Mayella's parents shape their lives in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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

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SCOUT.  Needless to say, Atticus is the best parent of the group, and he tries to allow his children a true view of their little world of Maycomb. Atticus leads by example, telling his brother, Jack, that he hopes his children will come to him when they have questions, rather than listening to gossip around town. He gives his children plenty of independence, and he allows them to make mistakes, hoping they will see the error of their ways and use them for future reference. He reads to Scout each night, probably as he had done previously with Jem. Although he is a busy man, he spends what time he can with them; the children recognize Atticus' need for some private time, and they don't bother him much in the evenings. He employs Calpurnia to give them some feminine attention, and he allows Alexandra to push her way into the household, hoping she is right about Scout needing a motherly touch and some ladylike ways. We know that Jem and Scout turn out all right, and (as Scout tells us on the first page of the novel) even as adults, they seek Atticus for advice.

DILL.  Dill's mother and her male suitors have little time for Dill; they seem to prefer pursuing their own interests without him. Dill is left with his Aunt Rachel in Maycomb each summer, which is alright with Dill. However, according to Francis (who gets his information from Alexandra), Dill's parents also shuttle him off to other relatives as well. Dill's parents seem willing to buy his love--Dill gets all sorts of presents and gifts of money, of which Jem and Scout are somewhat envious--rather than show him love. Consequently, Dill retreats to the world of fantasy, making up stories about his would-be fathers and their treatment of him, both good and bad. Dill is generally happy when he is in Maycomb, but is probably an unhappy little boy the rest of the year.

MAYELLA.  Mayella's mother is dead, and Bob drinks away the family welfare check, leaving Mayella to serve as the surrogate mother for the younger Ewells in the family. She has no friends and the Ewells have no neighbors; her social life is nonexistent. Thus, she seeks out Tom, since he seems friendly and passes by the Ewell house once in a while. There are other underlying connections between Bob and Mayella; he has beaten her more than once, apparently, and (reading between the lines) there could be some sort of sexual connection as well. Mayella herself is probably better off with Bob dead; however, she is now left to tend the other Ewell kids on her own.

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