In TKAM, Chapter 10, when Atticus shoots the rabid dog, how does the definition of gentlemanly behavior contrast with self-expression?How does it contrast with the macho concept of masculine behavior?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus, who is normally unwilling to discuss his shooting skills or even disclose to his children that he is good with a gun, rushes home to protect his children, Calpurnia, and his neighbors to shoots the rabid dog. This scene demonstrates his genteel manners in a couple of ways.  First, he is the "knight in shining armour" who hastens the rescue of the vulnerable (not just in this situation but more importantly in defending Tom Robinson).  Secondly, he is a gentleman because he does not boast about his skills in anything.  His children think he can do nothing exciting and have no idea in the beginning chapters of the book that their father is not only a skilled shot but also the most respected man in Maycomb.

Atticus personality and unassuming nature cause his children, who equate masculinity with bravado and adventure, to view him as decrepit and useless.  Like most children, they have no use for someone who can talk his way out of a fight or who does not seem gifted physically.  If Atticus did express typical macho behavior, he would have bragged a long time ago to his children about his success with weapons, court cases, and popularity, but instead he allows his children to mature and develop their own definition of what makes a man truly a man.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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