To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In Chapter 4 of To Kill a Mockingbird, we learn that Atticus went to school at home.  Does this mean he didn't go to school?  Reference in the previous chapter, "Atticus did not go to school."

Expert Answers info

Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write9,038 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

After Scout's rough first day of school, she tells Atticus that she would prefer not to attend school anymore if it is okay with him. While Atticus fiddles with his pocket watch and waits for his daughter to speak, Scout says,

"You never went to school and you do all right, so I’ll just stay home too. You can teach me like Granddaddy taught you ‘n’ Uncle Jack" (Lee, 29).

Scout's comment reveals that Atticus never received a formal education and was homeschooled by his father on Finch's Landing, which was customary during that time period in the late 1800s. Young southern men typically helped maintain their family's estate and received an education from their parents or private tutors. Despite not attending school as an adolescent, Atticus earned a college degree by studying law in Montgomery. He also helped pay for his brother's education when John decided to go to medical school. Atticus then makes a compromise with Scout and agrees to read to her in the evenings if she attends school.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

ajmchugh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write257 answers

starTop subjects are Literature and Social Sciences

You're correct to assume that Atticus had no formal schooling when he was a young boy (although he did go to law school as a young adult).  In Chapter 3, Scout complains about her terrible first day of school and tells Atticus,

You never went to school and you do all right, so I'll just stay home too.  You can teach me like Granddaddy taught you 'n' Uncle Jack.

It wasn't uncommon for children to receive their educations at home--from their parents--during the time period in which Atticus would have been a boy (the late 1800s).  However, Atticus reminds Scout that laws have changed--and that he would end up in jail if he failed to send Scout to school. 

check Approved by eNotes Editorial