In Chapter 4 of Nelle Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, how does Atticus react to the game, and what does this tell us about him?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Chapter 4, Atticus's response to the game he witnesses Dill, Jem, and Scout playing is actually very simple and is seen in the last page of the chapter. At first, Atticus doesn't allude to any of his suspicions concerning what the children are doing. Instead, his first response is to ask the children why they are playing with scissors and tearing up a newspaper, mostly because playing with scissors is dangerous, as we see in Atticus's response, "Give me those scissors ... They're no things to play with." After Atticus demands the children give him the scissors, he next asks if the children's game has anything to do with the Radley's. His final line of dialogue before he goes back inside the house is the most telling concerning his reaction towards the children's game. After the children state that the game does not have anything to do with the Radley's, Atticus warns, "I hope it doesn't."

Atticus's response to the children's game shows us that he wants the children to be respectful. He doesn't want them acting out nonsense about the Radley's that they only know from gossip. What's more, he does not want the children to judge the Radley's based only on hearsay. His reaction helps characterize Atticus as one who believes in treating all of mankind with dignity, respect, and honesty.