How does Atticus feel children's questions should be answered in To Kill a Mockingbird?  

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus says that children have to be answered directly when they ask adults a question.

When Scout comes to Christmas, Uncle Jack tries to teach her a lesson and gets one from her. He doesn’t like the fact that she swears and gets into fights, and tells her that if she does again she will get into trouble. Then he spanks her for fighting with Frances. She tells him that he doesn’t understand children much, and Frances did provoke her. He had insulted Atticus.

Jack tells Atticus that he will never marry because he might have children, and that he is sorry that he spanked Scout.

“Her use of bathroom invective leaves nothing to the imagination. But she doesn’t know the meaning of half she says—she asked me what a whore-lady was…” (Ch. 9) 

Jack admits that he did not tell Scout the truth when she asked him a question because it was embarrassing to explain what a whore-lady was. Atticus does not approve of not answering a child directly. It is another example of how Atticus’s approach to child-rearing is different from that of Jack, who has no children.

“Jack! When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness’ sake. But don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles ‘em.” (Ch. 9) 

Atticus doesn’t exactly follow his own advice, because his explanation of rape for Scout uses words like “carnal knowledge” and “consent” that she probably doesn’t know. However, he does answer her question. Atticus believes that children have the right to know what is going on and adults should not hide the truth from them.

Scout and Jem certainly have to grow up fast during the Tom Robinson trial. Frances's insults of Atticus are just one example. Scout has to learn about issues that might be considered inappropriate for a child her age, such as rape.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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