In To Kill A Mockingbird, how does Scout's and Jem's opinion of their dad change from the beginning of the novel to the end? Give specific examples.

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the beginning of To Kill A Mockingbird, Jem and Scout think of their father as boring and dull. They also feel he is old:

"When Jem and I asked him why he as so old, he said he got started late, which we felt reflected upon his abilities and  manliness." (pg 89)

They compare him to the other fathers in the neighborhood and feel he is does not measure up:

"He did not do things our classmate's fathers did: he never went hunting, he did not play poker or fish or drink or smoke.  He sat in the living room and read." (pg 89)

Although Atticus would play keep away in football, he would not allow Jem to tackle him. Jem felt that his dad should allow him to tackle him, but Atticus responded with the statement that he was too old:

"Jem was football crazy.  Atticus was never too tired to play keep-away, but when Jem wanted to tackle him, Atticus would say,'I'm too old for that, son." (pg 89)

Truly, Jem and Scout feel their dad is much too old to play with them. They feel he is uninteresting as compared to the other fathers in the neighborhood. 

As the story progresses, they begin to see their dad in a different light. When he shoots the rabid dog, Jem and Scout are impressed. They had no idea that their dad was a sharp shooter. This is an instance that changes their mind about their dad being old and feeble. Instead, they see Atticus as a hero. They admire his shooting skills. When they talk to Miss Maudie about their dad's shooting abilities, she tells them that Atticus was the sharpest shot in the county:

Scout and Jem find out that Atticus was known as “One-Shot Finch.” Their respect for him is increased tremendously.

When Jem and Scout asks why Atticus had never told them he was such a sharp shooter, he explains his response:

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see through it no matter what."--Atticus (pg. 112) 

That kind of response from Atticus makes Jem and Scout very proud of their dad. They gain a new respect for him as the novel closes. Both Jem and Scout realize what a great man Atticus is. They realize he is a good person who works hard to defend Tom Robinson. They have a great deal of respect for their father while he is defending Tom Robinson.  

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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