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cldbentley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Near the end of Chapter 13 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch attempts to teach his daughter, Scout (Jean Louise) that she must obey her Aunt Alexandra's dictates and adopt a much more ladylike approach to life than she has exhibited previously; Jem, Atticus's son, is to behave himself as a proper young man of quality lineage.  Aunt Alexandra, who is somewhat of a snob, feels that Scout's behavior reflects negatively on the Finch family name.

"...She asked me to tell you that you must try to behave like the little lady and gentleman that you are.  She wants to talk to you about the family and what it's meant to Maycomb county through the years, so you'll have some idea of who you are, so you might be moved to behave accordingly..."

Have been told, basically, that her entire way of conducting herself is no longer acceptable, Scout attempts to comfort herself with an innocent distraction, but Atticus admonishes her harshly for making noise.  Scout is driven to tears, because she sees her father's uncharacteristically stern and unkind behavior as evidence of an impending great change in him brought on by the inevitability of Tom Robinson's trial.  When Atticus realizes that Scout is merely doing her best to mask her fear and upset, Atticus tells his children that he doesn't "want {them{ to remember it.  Forget it."

Atticus, who represents the best of morals and ethics in nearly every way and is an exemplary father, friend, and citizen, finally recognizes the truth of his sister's advice and promptings when Scout comes to him in tears.  Alexandra had instructed Atticus to force his children, in essence, to conform to societal standards and care more about what other people expect of them than their own sense of appropriateness.  In doing so, Atticus betrayed himself; he allowed his sister to influence him and went against his own morals.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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