How does Heck Tate symbolize bravery and toughness to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Scout admires Heck Tate, the sheriff of Maycomb County.  He seems to fit her idea of what a man should be.

The children are not satisfied with Atticus.  When Atticus tells them he is older because he started late, they feel that this “reflected upon his abilities and manliness” (ch 10).  It is no coincidence that in the chapter where Atticus’s manliness is examined, Heck Tate appears.

He was as tall as Atticus, but thinner. He was long-nosed, wore boots with shiny metal eye-holes, boot pants and a lumber jacket. His belt had a row of bullets sticking in it. He carried a heavy rifle. (ch 10)

Heck grabs his gun and bravely faces down the mad dog, as a sheriff should do.

Since Heck seems so manly, it is quite a shock to Scout when he decides he can’t shoot well enough to take out the dog in a single shot.  When he tries to get Atticus to take the gun, Scout’s father says he hasn’t shot a gun “in thirty years” and doesn’t feel comfortable taking it now.

Mr. Tate almost threw the rifle at Atticus. "I'd feel mighty comfortable if you did now," he said. (ch 10)

When Atticus takes out the dog in one shot, Scout learns something new about her father.  While he may seem old and feeble, he actually is very manly!  He can shoot more accurately than Tate.


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