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Atticus always tries to answer his children's questions honestly, even when it pains him to do so. When Scout asks if him if he will ever get paid by Mr. Cunningham, Atticus tells her that he will, but "not in money," and then he explains about how the Depression has hit people like the Cunninghams the hardest. When Scout asks him if he saw Boo when he visited the Radley House, Atticus answered, "I did not," without revealing any further information that might compromise Boo's privacy. When Scout asks her father "Do you defend niggers?" Atticus answers, "Of course I do," and then lectures her on the "common" nature of a person who uses the "N" word. When Scout asks if he was going to win the Tom Robinson trial, Atticus replies, "No, honey," explaining that even though "we were licked... before we started is no reason for us not to try to win." And, when Scout asks him, "What's rape?", Atticus tells her the truth--even if it is in a way that Scout still does not fully understand.
Atticus looked around from behind his paper... He sighed, and said rape was carnal knowledge of a female by force and without consent.
Atticus hopes that his children will always come to him for answers
"instead of listening to the town. I just hope they trust me enough..."
One of the best examples of Atticus showing honesty and integrity is on the night his two children are attacked by Bob Ewell. As Sheriff Tate explains the evidence that he finds, Atticus thinks that Jem is the one who kills Mr. Ewell. Atticus is fully prepared to defend Jem in court on the basis of self-defense because he isn't the type of person to cover up the truth, even if his own son is involved. When Sheriff Tate suggests that Mr. Ewell died by falling on his knife, Atticus thinks it's an offer to cover up the situation, and he says the following:
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart, but I don't want my boy starting out with something like this over his head. Best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open. Let the county come and bring sandwiches. I don't want him growing up with a whisper about him, I don't want anybody saying, 'Jem Finch . . . his daddy paid a mint to get him out of that'" (273).
Atticus is a wise parent in the above passage because he leads his children by example. If Jem were not in bed with a broken arm during this discussion, he would have heard his father planning to stand him up before the whole town and taking responsibility for the death of Mr. Ewell. Atticus is not the kind to keep secrets or cover up information because that is not the way to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Furthermore, Atticus knows how the people of Maycomb gossip, never forget, and hold grudges; therefore, if the town knows the truth from the beginning, then Atticus hopes that Jem will be safe from future allegations. By facing the situation head on, and walking Jem through the judicial process, Atticus would teach by example that facing one's problems is the right thing to do even if it is the most difficult thing he has to do. Fortunately, neither Atticus nor Jem has to face anything because Jem didn't kill Mr. Ewell. If he had, though, Atticus would have faced it with Jem with honesty and integrity.
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