Why does Jem tell Scout not to ask Dill about his father in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail's profile pic

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

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Jem and Scout quickly made friends with Miss Rachel's new summer guest, her nephew Charles Baker Harris--better known as "Dill." Although Dill was older than Scout, he was much smaller, but he made up for his lack of size with his great stories and his worldliness:

     Dill had seen Dracula, a revelation that moved Jem to eye him with the beginning of respect.

Dill had already told them about his mother, but when Scout asked him about his father, Dill replied,

     "I haven't got one."
     "Is he dead?"

When Scout persisted in her questions about Dill's father, he "blushed." Jem recognized that Dill didn't really want to discuss the subject--Jem often came to tears when he remembered his own dead mother--and he told Scout to

... hush, a sure sign that Dill had been studied and found acceptable.

Jem probably figured that Dill would tell them about his father when he was good and ready, and he didn't want to embarrass their new friend any further. 

gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 1, Jem and Scout meet Dill for the first time. After Dill introduces himself, he climbs underneath the fence separating his aunt's yard from the Finches' and tells the siblings that he is from Meridian, Mississippi. Dill mentions that his family was originally from Maycomb and that he would be spending his summers with his aunt, Miss Rachel. After Dill tells Jem and Scout about the movie Dracula, Scout asks him why he hasn't said anything about his father. When Dill says that he doesn't have a father, Scout asks if he is dead. Dill says "No," and Scout asks, "Then if he's not dead you got one, haven't you?" (Lee 7). Dill blushes and before he can answer, Jem tells Scout to be quiet. Jem is empathetic towards Dill's feelings and understands that he doesn't want to talk about his father. Unlike Jem, Scout cannot tell that Dill feels uncomfortable discussing his father. Jem also likes Dill and wants to be his friend. Jem knows that making a person feel uncomfortable is not the best way to gain someone's friendship.