In To Kill a Mockingbird, how does Atticus influence Scout's and Jem's lives?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Atticus influences his children's lives every day through his words, but more significantly, through his actions and the example he sets for them. His primary influence is observed in how he shapes their characters. Atticus guides Scout and Jem as they adopt the values that will define them as adults.

Through his defense of Tom Robinson, as well as his direct statements, Atticus counteracts the hateful, destructive racism that surrounds Jem and Scout in Maycomb. Through his influence, the children are not "infected" with racist attitudes. Atticus works hard to make certain that Jem and Scout escape this social disease.

Atticus also influences Jem and Scout in developing in them a respect for life and the rejection of cruelty. When he teaches Jem to not kill mockingbirds, the lesson is deeper than it might appear, and it takes hold in both his children. Scout clearly understands it, as evidenced by her protective attitude toward Boo Radley in the novel's conclusion.

Finally, Atticus influences his children in their sense of basic justice and their respect for it. Tom's conviction hurts Jem deeply because he understands, and rejects, its injustice. Tom's death affects Scout deeply for the same reason. Both children have come to recognize the difference between what is just and what is cruelly unjust, and they reject injustice.


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gmuss25 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Atticus has a tremendous influence on his children's lives. Throughout the novel, Atticus teaches Jem and Scout the importance of courage, integrity, perspective, and justice. He not only gives his children valuable insight into the community of Maycomb, but he also encourages them to become morally upright individuals. Atticus leads by example and courageously defends a black man in front of a prejudiced community while simultaneously remaining tolerant towards his racist neighbors. Atticus' actions and lessons impact Jem and Scout's perspective and behavior. Scout learns how to perceive situations from other people's point of view and how to control her anger. Atticus teaches them the importance of protecting innocent beings and following their conscience even when it's considered unpopular. Jem and Scout also gain insight into the duality of human nature and learn what 'real courage' is through their experiences with Mrs. Dubose. Atticus also takes his time explaining certain aspects of the justice system to his children. Atticus is always honest with his children, and they look to him for answers. Jem and Scout are positively influenced by their father and grow up to be tolerant, independent, morally upright individuals.


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