How does Atticus allow Scout and Jem to express themselves in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus allows his children to express themselves by giving them a number of freedoms.

Atticus allows his children to express themselves by speaking to him on any topic; Scout dresses as she wants in overalls; the children can shoot their air rifles and play act as long as they do not ridicule anyone. They can bring children such as Walter Cunningham home for lunch without reprisal, and they are allowed free speech to adults as long as they are respectful.After Scout is scolded repeatedly by Miss Caroline, she tells her father that evening about what has happened, and he does not scold her harshly, so that she will not be afraid to talk with him. Instead, he teaches her to try to understand her teacher by "climbing into her skin" and trying to understand her. Then, he makes an agreement with Scout not to say anything at school about her continuing to read the Mobile Register with him in the evening. This action endears him to Scout as he has corrected her, while at the same time he has made an agreement with her so that he "will not get into trouble" with Miss Caroline. Furthermore, Scout is never afraid to ask Atticus what certain words mean, such as rape. He always answers her questions or those of Jem with straightforward answers.

In another instance, when Atticus is threatened by the Old Sarum Bunch at the jailhouse, Scout and Jem come to give him aid. Being a protective father, Atticus tells his children to go home; however, in their love for him, they defy him and stay. Scout goes so far as to address Mr. Cunningham, hoping to diffuse the tension. When her efforts accomplish the discomfiture of Mr. Cunningham, he summons his relatives and friends, and they depart. Instead of scolding his children for their disobedience, Atticus lovingly rubs Jem's head as they all walk home.

In the final chapter when the decision must be made about how Sheriff Tate will report the murder of Bob Ewell, Atticus is reluctant to concur with Tate's version until he consults Scout, who reaffirms Tate's contentions by quoting her father's own advice: "It'd be sorta like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?" Then, valuing the wisdom of her remark, he agrees--"Atticus put his face in my hair and rubbed it."

Atticus Finch allows his children a certain freedom to express themselves because he understands that through their acts of expression they learn to think, and they acquire self-esteem.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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