Throughout the course of the novel, Jem and Scout learn many new things about their father. But their biggest surprise comes in Chapter 10 when they find he has a hidden talent they could never have imagined. At the beginning of the chapter, Scout complains about Atticus being
... feeble; he was nearly fifty... He couldn't do anything.
They questioned his manliness since he didn't do any of the things their classmates' younger fathers did.
Atticus didn't drive a dump-truck... he was not the sheriff, he did not farm, work in a garage, or do anything that could possibly rouse the admiration of anyone.
Besides that, he wore glasses.
He was too old to play tackle football with Jem, and he didn't hunt, fish, drink, smoke or play poker.
He sat in the livingroom and read.
But they soon changed their minds when he was called upon by Sheriff Tate to kill the mad dog that was roaming their street. "In a fog," they watched their father take the rifle from the sheriff and put a bullet between the eyes of Tim Johnson, the mad dog.
Jem was paralyzed.
But Miss Maudie explained that Atticus had once been known as "Ol' One Shot" when he was growing up--the best marksman in Maycomb County. She also explained to them why Atticus had never told them about it.
"People in their right minds never take pride in their talents..."
It was the children's first lesson in humility, and they quickly began viewing their father in an entirely different light.
"... I wouldn't care if he couldn't do anything--I wouldn't care if he couldn't do a blessed thing...
"Atticus is a gentleman, just like me!"
According to Scout's narrative, the children see their father as an imposing figure; this is evidenced by their calling him "Attics." They see him as old and feeble, until he is able to kill the mad dog meandering up the street. After the trial, they see the respect afforded him by the friends and family of Tom Robinson. Here they (especially Jem) begin to understand why he took Tom Robinson's case in the first place. After Bob Ewell attacks the children, Scout watches her father struggle with understanding the need to protect Boo Radley from the ramifications of killing Boo Radley. Her understanding and true appreciation of her father comes as she stands on Boo Radley's porch in chapter 31; for the first time, she stands in his shoes and sees things as he has. here she applies the lesson Atticus tried to teach - to truly understand someone, you have to stand in their shoes.