What are some examples of how Atticus helps to bring about a change in Scout?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus and Scout have a great father-daughter relationship. Atticus is a kind and patient man who gives Scout the benefit of the doubt as well as teaching her to improve herself. As she starts first grade, she finds that things don't always go as she feels they should. As a result, she winds up solving problems through yelling and punching. Atticus wants her to stop fighting so he gives her some great advice after her first day of school:

"First of all. . . if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it" (30).

Scout takes this to heart and admits to trying it when involved in arguments with her brother, Jem. It's a skill that needs practice though. For example, Scout gets into a fight with her second cousin Francis at Christmas time. Uncle Jack discusses the situation with Atticus while Scout hides and listens in. Unbeknownst to her, Atticus knows that she's listening, so he says things to his brother that will help her to improve her behavior:

"Bad language is a stage all children go through, and it dies with time when they learn they're not attracting attention with it. Hotheadedness isn't. Scout's got to learn to keep her head and learn soon, with what's in store for her these next few months. She's coming along, though. . . she knows I know she tries. That's what makes the difference" (87-88).

With this conversation, Atticus points out Scout's hotheadedness more directly than with his first piece of advice; but also says he believes in her. Now she knows what she needs to work on and that Atticus knows she can do it.

One more example of Atticus helping Scout bring about a change in herself is how he treats the "evil" Mrs. Dubose in chapter 11. Mrs. Dubose is a cranky old woman who says mean and prejudiced things to the children about their father. Rather than stoop to her level, Atticus always greets her with the tip of his hat and a polite word. Scout witnesses Atticus tell her brother always to show Mrs. Dubose respect and to be a gentleman. What really impacts Scout, though, is how Atticus faces the harshest of criticism with positivity. Scout explains:

"It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived" (100).

She also sees that speaking and acting kindly to people, even though they are disrespectful in return, can bring about respect for oneself as well as a way to de-escalate the situation. Through Atticus's perfect example, Scout learns that she does not have to fight to solve problems--she just has to be patient, kind and brave.

 

 

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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