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Very few fathers give their young children as much independence as Atticus Finch in Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. They are an unusual family, as far as Maycomb goes. Jem and Scout call Atticus by his first name, and their housekeeper, Calpurnia, does most of the disciplining. As a single parent, Atticus always deals with his children honestly, unlike his brother, Jack. When Scout asks him what a "whore-lady" is, Uncle Jack beats around the bush and then changes the subject.
"Jack! When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness' sake... Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults. (Chapter 9)
He teaches the children the art of compromise, whether it is dealing with Jem and his conflict with Mrs. Dubose or with Scout and her teacher, Miss Caroline.
"If you'll concede the necessity of going to school, we'll go on reading every night just as we always have. Is it a bargain?"
"... By the way, Scout, you'd better not say anything at school about our agreement."
"... I have a feeling that if you tell Miss Caroline we read every night, she'll get after me, and I wouldn't want her after me." (Chapter 3)
He allows them to speak their mind and even curse once in a while, but he's quick to point out when they cross the boundaries of good taste. He also knows that defending Tom Robinson will bring hardship to his entire family, including Scout, who hears taunts at school.
"Do you defend niggers, Atticus?" I asked him that evening.
" 's what everybody at school says."
"From now on, it'll be everybody less one--" (Chapter 9)
Atticus allows Jem and Scout to see the adult world and hopes his example will guide them as they grow older. When he finds that they have witnessed the entire rape trial, he considers seding them home.
"Well, you've heard it all, so you might as well hear the rest." (Chapter 21)
Later, he tells his sister, Alexandra,
"We've made it this way for them, they might as well learn to cope with." (Chapter 22)
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