Describe the relationship between Atticus and Jem in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Atticus is a stern but loving father to both his children; because the s story is narrated in first person from Scout's point of view, we get her thoughts and feelings about everything that transpires, including a fair amount of mild trouble that she occasionally finds herself in.  Jem, being older, tends to get into trouble less, but on a couple of occasions, we see Atticus and Jem at cross purposes and can observe Atticus's responses.  When Jem destroys the cranky neighbor's camellia bushes, Atticus decides that Jem will read to her every afternoon as long as he wishes him to.  Although on the surface this appears to be nothing more than a strong consequence for misbehavior, Atticus has another purpose in issuing this directive, which both children only discover upon her death:  she was a morphine addict, and the read alouds distracted her while she was in a withdrawal fit.  Atticus explained, "I wanted you to see what real courage is. . . ."  On another occasion, at the jail where Tom Robinson was being held, Atticus, who was there to protect Tom should trouble arise, was confronted nearly simultaneously with a potential lynch mob, and the trio of Scout, Dill and Jem.  Atticus,clearly frightened, ordered Jem to take the kids home; Jem stubbornly refused.  By the time it was all over with, Scout had engaged Mr. Cunningham in friendly conversation, and he was so taken aback that that he ordered the crowd to disperse.  On the walk home, the reader wonders if the kids will be disciplined for disobeying Atticus, especially Jem, but to the contrary, Atticus doesn't say much, but Scout sees him ruffle Jem's hair. 


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