Wht is the relationship between the narrator and her brother Jem and their father in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus cares about his children, and it is very important to him that they have a strong moral compass, as he has.  He wants them to grow up respectful of people of all kinds.

Atticus Finch is an only parent, raising his two children alone with only the help of Calpurnia the housekeeper.  His wife died shortly after his daughter was born.

At the time the story opens, Scout (Jean Louise) and Jem are both school-age.  Scout is starting first grade, and Jem (Jeremy Atticus) is starting fifth grade.

Jem and I found our father satisfactory: he played with us, read to us, and treated us with courteous detachment. (ch 1)

Atticus does not stress the fact that his children come from an important family.  He wants them to be polite.  They are not spoiled, but they are given a fair amount of freedom.  Although he perpetually threatens them with whippings, he never actually has hit either of them.

 Atticus’s children call him by his first name, and usually “sir” as well.  It is never really explained why they call him “Atticus” instead of “Dad” or “Father,” but they are otherwise respectful to him in the traditional Southern old-fashioned style.

Our father didn't do anything. He worked in an office, not in a drugstore. Atticus did not drive a dump-truck for the county, he was not the sheriff, he did not farm, work in a garage, or do anything that could possibly arouse the admiration of anyone. (ch 10)

Throughout the course of the book, Jem and Scout get to know their father much better-especially Scout.  Atticus’s dilemmas and triumphs become theirs, now that they are old enough to know what he is going through.  They are disappointed that he is older than most fathers and cannot play football, but they come to respect him for his unique position as the town’s moral center.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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