What lesson about children does Uncle Jack have to learn in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, the family goes to visit Aunt Alexandra for Christmas. While they are there, news about Atticus taking on Tom Robinson's case comes up. (Though Aunt Alexandra is very conservative and would not bring it up with the children around, Scout's cousin Francis does.)

Francis proceeds to taunt Scout about her father's part in defending a black man. Scout, not one to mince words, calls Francis a "whore lady" and she goes after Francis until she finally gets him.

When stalking one's prey, it is best to take one's time. Say nothing, and as sure as eggs he will become curious and emerge.

When Francis comes out, Scout does her best to convince him that she is no longer mad, and then pops him in the mouth.

Scout and her Uncle Jack had had a serious discussion about her language. He felt Scout was not behaving in a ladylike fashion, and warned her that the next time she spoke inappropriately, without "extreme provocation," he would punish her.

When Francis repeats what Scout called him, Uncle Jack spanks her.

I found myself suddenly looking at a tiny ant struggling with a bread crumb in the grass.

Scout promises Uncle Jack she will never speak to him again, and Atticus decides to pack the children up and go home. When they arrive at the house, Scout immediately runs to her room. Soon Uncle Jack comes to speak with her. First she gets sassy, but when he threatens go spank her again, she stops and listens to him.

When Uncle Jack tries to tell her that she had the punishment coming, she asks to explain herself and tells Jack that she loves him, but he doesn't know how to deal with kids. When he puzzles over this, she explains.

When Jem and Scout fight, Atticus always allows both to tell their side of the story. Jack did not do so. Scout also complains stating that she was provoked because of the names Francis called her father; she refused to let him insult Atticus that way and retaliated.

Jack is furious at Francis and wants to see him punished, but Scout tells him to forget—she doesn't want Atticus to know why they were fighting. She also reminds Jack that Francis did not get away with it; obviously she is satisfied with hitting him in the mouth, and she asks Uncle Jack to bandage her hand.

Uncle Jack has to learn to listen when a child tries to tell him something important without jumping to conclusions: he needs to hear "both sides."

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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