Can you explain the following line spoken by Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird?"When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake. But don’t make a production of it....

Can you explain the following line spoken by Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird?

"When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake. But don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults and evasion simply muddles ‘em up."

Asked on by margey

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afi80fl's profile pic

afi80fl | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted on

This is when Atticus was talking to Uncle Jack about giving Scout and Jem straight answers, such as his textbook definition of the word "rape" when Scout asked what it meant.  Here's what Atticus is trying to say:  Don't lie to kids.  Give them just enough informatoin, simply as possible, to satisfy their initial inquiry.  The production part refers to giving a kid a college level explanation of a 1st grade level question. 

For instance, think about the classic, "Where do babies come from?"  Most of the time, saying "from mommy's tummy" or "the hospital" will suffice, and the kid will just say "oh, okay", moving along.  There's no need for a parent to basically explain the entire reproductive process, along with the ethics of sexuality, for a simple question from a youngster.

Spotting an evasion simply means a child's ability to determine when an adult is uncomfortable with a question and is making an effort not to answer it truthfully or completely.  If the parent in the above-mentioned scenario would've said, "babies?  Well... why do you need to know?  Ask me when you're older", then an onslaught of additional questions would have certainly ensued. 

Hopefully this has answered your question!

kiwi's profile pic

kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

There is an irony in the situation as there are many points of adult society which cannot be fully explained as they are inexplicable. The quotation refers to the explanation of rape by Atticus. His view is a logical and sensible one, and an excellent way of managing difficult sexual explanations. However, it is difficult to explain the innate racism of Maycomb and indeed the US as a whole at the time of the novel. Tom Robinson being tried for the unproven crime of rape is inexplicable. His guilty verdict even more so. Sometimes there has to be evasion as there is no logical explanation.

Herein lies the value of the child narrator. Scout does not accept or deliver evasive comment. She is direct, honest and through her eyes all can see the racial injustice accepted by all of the adults and the nation as a whole. Atticus is as clear with her and Jem as he can be, and as a result she sees even more perceptively than her father.

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