What Christmas gift does Uncle Jack give the children in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The gift of the air-rifles ties in with the title of the book and the major theme that killing mockingbirds is a sin. Had the children not received the air-rifles, Atticus wouldn't have mentioned that it's "a sin to kill a mockingbird," thereby introducing one of the major themes of the book. There's also one other interesting fact that goes along with Uncle Jack giving the kids the rifles—Atticus had asked Jack to buy them for his kids, but won't teach them how to shoot. This gives the children the idea that their father either doesn't like guns or doesn't know how to use one. For example, Atticus won't let the kids take their air-rifles to Finches Landing to visit Aunt Alexandra's family; thus, he makes them open those gifts before they leave.

Uncle Jack tells Atticus that he will have to teach the kids to shoot and his response is "That's your job. . . I merely bowed to the inevitable" (79). The question is, why won't Atticus teach his kids to shoot? Again, is he afraid of guns? In a twist, the kids find out a couple of months later that their father was once called "One-Shot Finch" (97). The reason is revealed as Atticus takes down a mad dog in chapter 10 with one shot. Scout's proud reaction to her father's newly-revealed talent is as follows:

"When we went home I told Jem we'd really have something to talk about at school on Monday. Jem turned on me. 'Don't say anything about it, Scout. . . I reckon if he'd wanted us to know it, he'da told us. If he was proud of it, he'da told us'" (98).

Among all of the wonderful things Atticus stands for in To Kill a Mockingbird, he is a good shot with a gun, but he would rather use the law, the judicial process, and good, sound reasoning skills to solve conflicts. In a way, by not telling his children about his shooting talents, he shows them that there are better ways than using guns to solve problems.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an important question, because this question is tied to the title and main theme of the book. Let me explain, but first here is the text that explains what the children received for Christmas:

“Jem and me got air rifles, and Jem got a chemistry set—” “A toy one, I reckon.”

As you can see, Uncle Jack gave two presents - air rifles to both Jem and Scout and a chemistry set for Jem. 

This is an important part of the story, because Atticus gives Scout and Jem an important lesson on shooting air rifles. Atticus reminds them never to shoot a mockingbird. In fact, according to Atticus, it is a sin to shoot mockingbirds. 

Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.

“Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Uncle Jack's visit at Christmas time is waited with great anticipation by Scout. When Jack steps off the train, Scout notices that he has two long, thin packages with him. When she asks him what's inside, Jack tells her, "None of your business." But Jem and Scout find out later after she has dreamed of them during the night. The parcels contain exactly what the two children had requested for presents, but they weren't gifts from Uncle Jack, but from Atticus; Uncle Jack had only picked them out for his brother. They were exactly what any boy--and tomboy--their age would want: air rifles.

kalbe41 | Student

What did Francis receive from Uncle Jack?

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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