Love Her But Leave Her Wild

In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, when does Atticus state, "Love her but leave her wild"?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus never says this, but he does get accused of letting Scout run wild. 

This quote is sometimes misattributed to the character Atticus Finch because it was written by a poet who goes by the name "Atticus." However, though Atticus Finch never says this line, that does not mean it doesn't apply to Atticus Finch and Scout.

To Atticus, as long as his children grow up to respect and care about people, he is satisfied.  He does feel the burden of raising two children on his own.

But the only time I ever heard Atticus speak sharply to anyone was when I once heard him say, “Sister, I do the best I can with them!” It had something to do with my going around in overalls. (Ch. 9)

Atticus Finch’s child-rearing methods are a bit unusual.  For one thing, his children call him by his first name.  Also, he lets Scout run around in overalls instead of dresses.  This is one of the reasons that so many people say that he is letting his daughter run wild. 

A lovelier lady than our mother never lived, she said, and it was heartbreaking the way Atticus Finch let her children run wild. I did not remember our mother, but Jem did—he would tell me about her sometimes—and he went livid when Mrs. Dubose shot us this message. (Ch. 11) 

Despite the criticism from his sister and the town, Atticus believes that some things are more important than what Scout wears.  He doesn’t even object to her swearing, because he assumes it is a phrase.  He lets his children explore the neighborhood, mostly on their own, but doesn’t let them act out stories about the neighbors like Boo Radley.

Scout and Jem demonstrate throughout the book that despite Atticus's unique parenting style, he has done fairly well by Scout and Jem.  His children have turned out to be good people.  Scout may be wild, but she is a good person.  She grows up to be intelligent, insightful, and compassionate.  Atticus is a loving parent, and as we learn from the examples of Mayella Ewell, Boo Radley, and Dill, that is very important.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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