To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover
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Compare Scout and Atticus to Burris and Bob Ewell. What can we conclude about the relationship between adults and children in To Kill a Mockingbird based on Chapter 3?

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In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, we see two distinct parent-child relationships that couldn't be in sharper contrast to each other. The relationship between Scout and her father, Atticus, is one of tenderness and love, mingled with moments of paternal wisdom taught during important stages of Scout's childhood. He teaches her compassion and caring for others less fortunate, as well as great empathy. He does this by way of his actions and through his own words.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

In several instances throughout the novel, Atticus turns many situations into teachable moments and Scout learns valuable lessons about integrity, respect for others, as well as an understanding of society, both the good and the bad that affects everyone. As a result of her father's positive guidance, Scout matures and grows into a more thoughtful person, who learns, among other things, to embrace people in her community as individuals, with all of their flaws and complexities.

In sharp contrast, we see the relationship of Bob Ewell with his children as one of a bullying, neglectful and abusive father. Ewell is the opposite of Atticus, who is gentle, civilized and noble in character. Bob Ewell is an ignorant, ignoble drunk, who threatens and intimidates his own children, as well as the other townspeople. It is no wonder that his son Burris rarely comes to school and when he does, he is sent home by the teacher because his hair is infested with "cooties." Mayella, his young adult daughter, feels so very lonely and abused that when Tom Robinson shows kindness to her she responds effusively, which leads to the tragic event of Tom's trial and subsequent killing. While Atticus is shown as a nurturing parent, Bob Ewell is a brutish, dysfunctional one.  

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