Does Scout Learn Anything From Overhearing Atticus Conversation With Uncle Jack

Does Scout learn anything from overhearing Atticus's conversation with Uncle Jack in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout learns how Atticus sees her and what he thinks of Tom Robinson when she eavesdrops on his conversation. 

Scout goes downstairs for a drink of water and overhears a conversation between Atticus and her Uncle Jack. While Jack and Atticus discuss the events of the day, Atticus tells Jack he dealt with Scout's fight correctly. He explains that she's hotheaded and quick to act on an insult, but that he knows she tries. Atticus believes that while using bad language is a phase, hotheadedness isn't—and he says that Scout needs to learn to control it.

When Uncle Jack asks how bad things are going to get with Tom Robinson's case, Atticus confesses, "it couldn't be worse." He says that the jury won't take the word of a black man over that of a white family, the Ewells. Atticus also says that he didn't want the case, but the judge assigned it to him—and he thinks Tom might have a chance on appeal.

Atticus also says that he hopes his children will come to him for answers as the controversy increases. He explains to Jack that even reasonable people in Maycomb go "stark raving mad" when anything involving a black person comes up. Then he stops and says Scout's name, telling her to go to bed.

Scout says she didn't know how Atticus knew she was there. She continues, "It was not until many years later that I realized he wanted me to hear every word he said."

Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 9 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout learns a great deal from eavesdropping on the conversation between her father and her Uncle Jack.

First, she learned that, in general, Atticus trusts her to try and do the right thing. Second, she learned that her biggest problem is being hotheaded. As Atticus explains, her "hotheadedness" is likely to cause her more problems during the course of the trial because more people will continue to insult her and her father. As Atticus phrases it, "Scout's got to learn to keep her head and learn soon."

Next, she learns about her father's feelings concerning Tom Robinson's case. She learns he feels the case will be difficult because all he really has is "Robinson's word against the Ewells'"; yet, he thinks he'll be successful in challenging the verdict with an appeal. More importantly, Scout gets to hear Atticus wonder at the town's prejudices and say he hopes Jem and Scout will trust him enough to learn his thoughts on Robinson's guilt rather than the town's thoughts.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Towards the end of Chapter 9, Scout wanders down the hall and overhears Uncle Jack talking to Atticus. Scout listens as Atticus tells Jack that he must be honest with children and answer them directly when they ask questions. Atticus also mentions that Scout needs to control her temper. Scout realizes the extent of her father's honesty and learns that she needs to do a better job of controlling her anger. Jack then asks Atticus how he thinks his case is going, and Atticus tells Jack that it couldn't possibly be worse. Scout listens as Atticus explains that he intends to "jar the jury," and discloses his reasons for defending Tom. Atticus also says that he hopes his children come to him for answers instead of listening to their racist community members. Scout mentions that many years later she realized that Atticus wanted her to hear every word of his conversation with Jack. Overall, Scout learns that she needs to control her temper and go to her father for advice. She also learns that Atticus has a moral obligation to defend Tom Robinson. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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