On what page of To Kill a Mockingbird is this quote found? "When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness' sake... an evasion simply muddles 'em."

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bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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This quotation from Atticus is spoken to his brother Jack during their Christmas together at Finch's Landing and, later, in Maycomb. Jack has separated Scout from the pummeling she was giving her Cousin Francis, and then he spanked her before determining the reasons for their fight. Jack followed Atticus back to his home in Maycomb in order to make up with Scout, and after hearing Scout's story, he apologizes to her and binds up her bloody hand. When she asks him "What's a whore-lady?", Jack launches into a tale about Lord Melbourne blowing "feathers in the air"--his way of avoiding the subject. When Jack told Atticus the story, Atticus responded firmly.

     "Jack! When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness' sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles 'em."  (Chapter 9)

The quote is found near the end of Chapter 9 (on page 87 in my old paperback from 1982).

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This quote from page 91 of the Warner paperback edition of To Kill a Mockingbird is one that is still good advice for parents.

In Chapter 9 of Harper Lee's novel, Scout's family travels to Finch Landing for Christmas dinner. After dinner, Scout goes to the back yard, where she sits on the steps with her cousin Francis. At first they speak with congeniality, but when Scout reveals her plans to marry Dill someday, Francis "hooted" with derisive laughter, calling Dill "a little runt" who has no real home. After making these derogatory remarks about Dill, Francis alludes to Atticus's upcoming legal defense of Tom Robinson, adding that Atticus is ruining the family.

Enraged by this insulting remark about Atticus, Scout chases Francis into the house. When he finally comes outside, she hits him squarely in the mouth, splitting one of her knuckles; Uncle Jack catches her and scolds her for using bad language, and she is left with "seven or eight red marks." Atticus tells Scout the spanking is deserved and drives his children home.

Shortly thereafter, Jack drives to their house and asks Scout, "Do you still hate me?" Scout rejects him, but Jack tells her she cannot call people pejorative names. She argues that he did not give her a chance to tell her side of the story. So he listens to Scout's account of Francis's having called Atticus names; afterwards, he apologizes and tends to Scout's wounded hand.

As Scout is bandaged, she asks her uncle what a "whore-lady" means. Unnerved by this question, Jack is evasive and launches into a long story about an old Prime Minister that makes no sense to Scout.

Later, Scout overhears Uncle Jack talking to Atticus. He apologizes for having "romped on her," but Atticus says she has deserved the spanking. However, when Jack tells his brother that Scout asked for the meaning of a "whore-lady," and he recounted a tale about Lord Melbourne, Atticus corrects him. He tells his brother to always answer the child honestly, but not to "make a production of it." Evasion confuses children. 

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