In Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, what explanation does Miss Maudie give for Atticus putting his gun down 30 years ago?

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mrshh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When a rabid dog walked through the neighborhood, Atticus came home and shot it dead.  Jem noticed that when his father picked up the gun, "it looked like... [it] was a part of him" (To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 10).  Atticus Finch was clearly skilled in the area of marksmanship.  The dog had been down the street from where he stood when he took the shot.

Miss Maudie informed Jem and Scout that their father had been an excellent shot as a boy and young man.  She recalled their childhood at Finch's Landing, where Atticus shot with accuracy.  She also told the children that "his nickname was Ol' One-Shot when he was a boy."  Jem and Scout were shocked.  They had no idea, as their father had never mentioned his expert marksmanship before.  They thought he should be proud of his skills.

It was also Miss Maudie who told them why their father had put his gun down decades before.  She had a theory about it:

"I think maybe he put his gun down when he realized that God had given him an unfair advantage over most living things.  I guess he decided he wouldn't shoot till he had to, and he had to today."

Miss Maudie thought that their father had given up shooting because he had the ability to aim and kill whatever he wanted.  Her theory was that he did not shoot unless absolutely necessary.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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