In chapter 14 of To Kill a Mockingbird, how does Atticus react to Dill returning to the Finch household. What does he tell the children and how do they react?

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Atticus does not seem completely surprised to find Dill hiding in his house, and tells the children he needs some food and makes a joke about him needing a bath.  They are not surprised their father would treat Dill respectfully.

When Dill’s mother gets married, he feels abandoned and decides to go back to Maycomb.  The children find him hiding under Scout’s bed.  They know that they can’t just keep his presence a secret, because his parents will be worried about him.  They decide to tell Atticus, and as usual he is aware of the situation and understanding.

When Scout finds Dill under her bed, at first she thinks he is a snake.  Then he tells them a sad tale, of why he had to leave.  Since it is Dill, it involves a whopper about his stepfather tying him up in the basement. 

Atticus responds to the emergency with his usual respectful patience.  The children show maturity in calling for his help, after they have calmed Dill down.

I finally found my voice: “It’s okay, Dill. When he wants you to know somethin‘, he tells you.”

Dill looked at me. “I mean it’s all right,” I said. “You know he wouldn’t bother you, you know you ain’t scared of Atticus.”

“I’m not scared…” Dill muttered.

“Just hungry, I’ll bet.” Atticus’s voice had its usual pleasant dryness. (Ch. 14)

Atticus says Dill needs some real food, asks him to clean up with a joke about soil erosion that Jem explains to him, and says he won’t tell Rachel where Dill is yet.  He knows that Dill will continue to panic until he has had some food and rest. 

Eventually though, the truth about Dill comes out.  He ran away because his parents were ignoring him.

I raised up on my elbow, facing Dill’s outline. “It’s no reason to run off. They don’t get around to doin‘ what they say they’re gonna do half the time…”

“That wasn’t it, he—they just wasn’t interested in me.” (Ch. 14)

Dill had so desperately wanted a family for so long, and especially a father, that when he finally got one he expected the man to live up to his expectations.  Instead, he was disappointed.  The man was much more interested in his mother than him.  As a result, he ran away to Maycomb, where he knew that he was always welcome and wanted.  There, he felt like part of the family.

Dill clearly contrasts Atticus with his own stepfather.  Scout reminds him that Atticus is not always there, but it is not the being there that counts.  Atticus clearly cares.  He does not jump to conclusions, and he treats his own children and other children, like Dill, with respect and kindness.  This is what makes Atticus a role model to Dill.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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