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Atticus Finch was, above all else, a peaceful Southern gentleman, and retaliating in a matter befitting Bob Ewell--"the disgrace of Maycomb"--was not his style. Bob encountered Atticus in public, spit in his face, cursed him, offered to fight him and threatened to kill him. Atticus, in typical style, remained calm, wiped the spittle from his face, and declined to fight Bob because he was "too old." Atticus had done his best to explain to Scout that using one's fists did not solve an argument, and Atticus was not about to break his own rule on a man as lowly as Bob. He had also made it clear to Jem that courage was not best displayed by a man with a gun in his hand. When Jem and Scout suggested Atticus begin carrying a gun, he replied, "Nonsense." Atticus was satisfied to be Bob's whipping boy for a day, and he explained to Jem later that if Bob's actions
"... saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that's something I'd gladly take. He had to take it out on somebody and I'd rather it be me than that household of children out there."
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