What lesson does Scout teach to Uncle Jack about children, and what other lesson does Atticus teach his brother in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Scout teaches Uncle Jack to listen to both sides before punishing a child, and Atticus adds that you should tell a child the truth when he or she asks a question.

When Scout gets into a fight with her cousin Francis, Uncle Jack spanks her.  When she is upset, he is surprised. In his mind, he warned her and therefore she should expect the spanking. 

Scout is not upset that she was punished; she is upset that Jack did not talk to her first.  He told her not to use foul language except under “extreme provocation” and in Scout’s mind Francis provoked her by insulting her father.

[You] never stopped to gimme a chance to tell you my side of it- you just lit right into me. … you told me never to use words like that except in ex-extreme provocation, and Francis provocated me enough to knock his block off-" (ch 9)

When Jack tells Atticus what happened, he agrees.  He said Scout should have been punished because she used her fists and not her words, not because she used foul language.  He also explains that Uncle Jack should tell a child the truth when she asks a question, because making a production of it just muddles them and children can see an evasion quicker than adults.

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gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 9, Scout loses her temper and ends up punching her cousin, Francis Hancock, in the face after he calls Atticus a "nigger-lover." Uncle Jack quickly intervenes during the scuffle and spanks Scout for her violent behavior. As soon as Scout gets home, she runs to her room, and Uncle Jack follows her. Uncle Jack ends up having a conversation with Scout and mentions that he was disappointed that she attacked Francis. Scout then proceeds to teach her uncle a lesson in how to treat and understand children. Scout mentions that Uncle Jack never gave her a chance to tell her side of the story which wasn't fair. She then explains to Uncle Jack that she felt extremely provoked when Francis called Atticus a "nigger-lover." Uncle Jack is shocked and feels terrible for not listening to Scout's side of the story. Uncle Jack then apologizes and begins to bandage Scout's bloody knuckle. While he is applying the bandage, Scout asks Uncle Jack, "What's a whore lady?" (Lee 54). Uncle Jack avoids telling her the true definition, and when he mentions it to Atticus, Atticus criticizes his brother for not being honest with Scout. Atticus tells Uncle Jack,

"When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness' sake. But don't make a production out of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles em'. No" (Lee 55). 

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