How does Scout describe the way she and her brother feel about their father?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 1 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout introduces the reader to Macomb and her family. She describes her father as a lawyer, who is related by blood or marriage to nearly everyone in Macomb. She adds that she, Jem, and her father live on the primary residential street in town. "Jem and I found our father satisfactory."

Later, in Chapter 10, Scout describes her father as "feeble" because he is nearly fifty. He would not let Jem tackle him as the other boys' fathers would. Further, she narrates innocently, "Our father didn't do anything. He worked in an office, not in a drugstore." To innocent, little Scout, her father does nothing that would elicit admiration, such as driving a big truck or being the sheriff. However, by the end of the chapter, hers and Jem's admiration for Atticus soars because he has shot the rabid dog with expertise. Jem beams with pride that his father is "the deadest shot in Maycomb County." He runs off, throwing a rock and shouting back to Scout "Atticus is a gentleman, just like me!"

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lsumner's profile pic

lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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In To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout and Jem have respect for their father; however, they describe him as different than most fathers during this time. Scout and Jem both call Atticus by his first name. They do not affectionately refer to him as dad. This could be due to the fact that Atticus treats his children as his equals. He has adult-like conversations with them. He is straightforward and teaches them to respect all people.

Scout mentions that her father is courteous but sometimes distant.

Jem and I found our father satisfactory: he played with us, read to us and treated us with courteous detachment (6).

Scout and Jem did not seem to mind that Atticus kept his distance to create independence in his children. Atticus did not seem to mind that his children called him by his first name.

While having the utmost respect for their father, Jem and Scout did think their father was feeble. Scout considered him old:

Atticus was feeble: he was nearly fifty. When Jem and I asked him why he was so old, he said he got started late, which we felt reflected upon his abilities and manliness.

This idea of their father being feeble ended on the day Atticus picked up a gun to kill a rabid dog. They had no idea he could expertly shoot a gun until the day Atticus had to shoot the rabid dog. They found a new respect and decided that Atticus may not be as feeble as they had assumed.

By the end of the novel, Scout and Jem have a new respect for their father’s bravery and self-control. He teaches Scout and Jem to walk away from ignorant men like Bob Ewell. Ultimately, Scout and Jem think their father is courageous for representing the innocent Tom Robinson. Scout and Jem gained more and more respect for their father because he took on the whole town when he defended a black man whom the white townspeople considered guilty solely because he was black.  

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mlsldy3's profile pic

mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Jem and Scout see their father as being rather boring "because he liked to read and didn't play any sports and didn't hunt." Scout and Jem think their father is just average in the way he does things and not very exciting. Atticus works in an office, and to Scout's childlike way of thinking, this makes him not doing very much. Atticus was older when he finally had children, so the kids seem him as feeble, because he tells Jem not to tackle him while playing football. As the book goes along, though, we see how Jem and Scout start to change the way they see their father. When Atticus has to shoot the sick dog, they both realize what a great shot the man is. There are things they never knew about him. 

When the trial of Tom Robinson starts, they have more respect for the man Atticus is and for the things he has taught them. It is interesting to see the change in Scout and Jem as the novel progresses. At first they don't see Atticus as anything really special, just an ordinary man, but as the book moves along, the begin to see Atticus the way we, the reader, does. Harper Lee's creation of Atticus Finch is brilliant. There could never be another Atticus Finch in literary history. The character teaches us all a little something about life, fairness, injustice, and that there are still good people left in the world.

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