What is the meaning of the quote "Best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open" in To Kill a Mockingbird? Describe the situation Atticus was in when he said it.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In chapter 30 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is engaged in a conversation with Sheriff Tate regarding the events of the evening. The two men are sitting when their conversation begins, but each stands up in order to prove a point. Scout recalls the "curious contest" that seems to be taking place as Sheriff Tate and Atticus stand facing each other.

Atticus believes that Jem killed Bob Ewell in self-defense. He believes that Sheriff Tate is attempting to protect Jem by stating otherwise. However, Sheriff Tate is firm in his stance that Bob Ewell fell on his own knife. When Atticus says, "Best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open," he is implying that he has no intention of letting Sheriff Tate lie to protect Jem. In truth, Sheriff Tate is protecting Boo Radley when he says that Bob Ewell killed himself by falling on his own knife.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Chapter 30, Atticus is having a conversation with Sheriff Tate following Bob Ewell's attack on Jem and Scout. Atticus begins to contemplate how he will defend his son, Jem, for killing Bob Ewell. Sheriff Tate questions Atticus to see if he thinks Jem was responsible for murdering Bob Ewell. Atticus tells Tate that he believes Jem wrestled Bob off of Scout and picked up Bob's knife and stabbed him. Atticus uses Scout's recollection of events as the basis for his belief that Jem murdered Bob Ewell. Heck Tate maintains that Jem did not stab Bob Ewell. Atticus disagrees and says that he doesn't want Jem growing up in a community that makes comments like, "his daddy paid a mint to get him out of that." (Lee 366) Atticus says, "The best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open." (Lee 366) Atticus has integrity and firmly believes that his son murdered Bob Ewell, and refuses to cover up any information that might unfairly help his son in the county court. Later on in the chapter, Heck Tate indirectly informs Atticus that Boo Radley stabbed Bob Ewell, but he's going to tell the community that Bob Ewell fell on his own knife. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial