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Scout objects to Atticus’s age, because she considers him old and feeble.
By some standards, Atticus is too old to be a good father to a youngster. He is “nearly fifty,” which only indicates that he is in his late forties. That is not incredibly old, but apparently old enough that he is not comfortable playing tackle football, he doesn’t have great eyesight, and he is a bit prudish on subjects like handling guns.
When Jem and I asked him why he was so old, he said he got started late, which we felt reflected upon his abilities and manliness. He was much older than the parents of our school contemporaries… (Ch. 10)
Scout considering her father unsatisfactory in comparison with other fathers is significant because it is another thing makes her family different. When her father shoots the rabid dog, she sees a different side of him.
A rabid dog threatens the safety of the street and everyone on it. Sherrif Tate tells Atticus he has to take the shot, because no one else can get it. Atticus walks into the street, aims, and gets the dog in one shot. His children are baffled. They though their father was old and boring.
Miss Maudie grinned wickedly. "Well now, Miss Jean Louise," she said, "still think your father can't do anything? Still ashamed of him?" (Ch. 10)
This incident is important in two ways. First of all, it shows that Atticus has many talents, and that anyone can surprise you. More importantly, it demonstrates his importance to the town. His children think Atticus is old and boring, but actually he is crucial as Maycomb’s moral conscience. Just as he was the only one who could walk into the street and face the dangerous dog, he is the only one who can face Maycomb’s other danger—racism. He is symbolically protecting Maycomb in the very same way he literally protected his street.
Atticus is fearless, dauntless, and multi-talented. As this incident demonstrates, he has tricks up his sleeve, and there is more to him than meets his eye. The mad dog incident also shows that Scout is an unreliable narrator. She had no idea what her father was capable of. This incident demonstrates that her characterization of her father as boring, old and feeble was not quite accurate. Atticus simple chooses his battles, and fights in his own ways. He also wins.
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