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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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In Scout's eyes, what is Atticus's chief fault in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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In many ways, Scouts considers her father's lack of robust physicality to be one of his greatest faults, a flaw which she refers to as him being "feeble."

At almost fifty years of age, Atticus is too old to allow his son to tackle him during a football game, and his lack of a job that requires physical labor bothers Scout, who claims, "Our father didn't do anything." She considers his "late start" in parenting to be a reflection of his manliness and even considers his glasses (worn to accommodate the near blindness of his left eye) to be a blight upon his reputation. Atticus does not hunt, play poker, fish, drink, or smoke like the other children's fathers; this choice to abstain from the common pursuits of men makes Scout believe that Atticus compares unfavorably to the other fathers of Maycomb. 

Despite this youthful skepticism, Scout comes to realize that her father is a heroic, steadfast man who fights on the behalf of those in need. His work on Tom Robinson's trial and his continued pursuit of racial justice shrouds Atticus in a much more favorable light in his daughter's eyes.


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In To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout truly respects her father, but she finds fault with him in certain areas of his life. She considers her father to be old and inactive. She states that he does not do the things other fathers do:

He did not do the things our schoolmates' fathers did: he never went hunting, he did not play poker or fish or drink or smoke. He sat in the living room and read.

Scout considers her father inadequate in some ways. "He wore glasses," she stated. She indicated that he was handicapped somewhat because he could not see well out of his left eye.

Clearly, Scout did not realize her father's work was serious work simply because she did not consider it to be physical work:

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.

Scout speaks her mind. Scout is a tough, tomboy type of girl. She appreciates a good fight, and she proves that she loves her father in spite of his faults, for she will scuffle with someone who criticizes him.

By the end of the novel, Scout is deeply proud of her father. She finally realizes how important his work is. She finds him to be courageous for standing up for Tom Robinson. She learns that her father is brave in the midst of an angry town that does not approve of Atticus defending a black man. She sees her father as a man who has good character, decency, and honest qualities. For this reason, she has come to truly admire him more and more.

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In Chapter 10 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, we learn what Scout sees as Atticus's chief fault soon after the children receive the air riffles they had asked for as Christmas gifts. In Scout's own words, "Atticus was feeble; he was nearly fifty."

Scout sees Atticus's age as contributing to his feebleness because, being young herself, she thinks that 50 is very old. In addition, when his children ask him why he is so much older than the parents of other kids their age, he responds that "he got started late," and Scout and Jem see this statement as a reflection "upon his abilities and manliness." Scout and Jem see Atticus's abilities as limited due to his age in several ways.

One example of his limitations concerns Atticus's ability to play with his children. Atticus is able to play keep-away with Jem anytime, but whenever Jem asks him to play tackle football, Atticus declines by saying, "I'm too old for that, son," which disappoints Jem greatly since he loves football so much and other fathers are able to play with their sons.

Other examples of what Scout perceives to be his limitations concern his job and his physique. Scout thinks Atticus has a very boring job as a lawyer. In her eyes, he doesn't do anything exciting like "drive a dump-truck" or work as a "sheriff." Instead, all he does is sit in an office all day long, which could not "possibly arouse the admiration of anyone." His physique further speaks to his feebleness and old age since he wears glasses and is almost blind in one eye.

In short, at the beginning of the story, the Finch children see their father as a dull, boring, feeble, and an old person.

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As any typical child who puts her father on a pedestal, Scout is as loving as she is judgmental about her Dad. The key criticism she shares in chapter 10 is that Atticus is "feeble", or a weakling, in comparison to other dads. Keep in mind that Scout does not take into consideration that the Finches come from a more educated, sophisticated and civilized family than most of Maycomb. This, and the fact that Atticus was a respected man of law and politics, renders him mindful of his behavior, always ringing true to the persona that everyone knows, admires, and trusts. 

To Scout this is just part of his boring personality. 

Atticus was feeble: he was nearly fifty. 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.

(Ouch!) This feebleness, according to Scout, is the reason why he does not play football with Jem, nor hunts, nor farms, nor drives a truck, nor goes fishing, nor shoots (they will find the truth about that later).

Moreover, he also wears glasses as he is nearly blind in his left eye--a genetic pre-disposition in the family, according to Atticus. Therefore, he has to move his face in a funny way to be able to see things with his good eye.

None of these things make Atticus stand out in a cool way. All he does is "stay in the living room and read".  Imaginable for a kid, Scout feels that these traits are what very dull people are made of. It is understandable that Scout describes her father this way, even in retrospect. 

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Scout finds fault with her father, Atticus, in many ways at the beginning of Chapter 10 of To Kill a Mockingbird. She finds him "feeble," partly because he is much older--Atticus is nearly 50--than the fathers of their other friends. She thinks his advanced age reflects on his "abilities and manliness." Atticus is too old to play football with Jem, and he can't "do anything." He wears glasses and is nearly blind in his left eye. Additionally, he doesn't hunt, smoke, drink, fish or play poker. All he does is "sit in the livingroom and read." In short, Atticus is boring.

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Atticus is old and "feeble" since he doesn't play ball with his children and would rather just sit around and read. Then he has "the Finch curse" which is poor eyesight, and must wear glasses.

To Scout and Jem their father is a kind man and a modal father but is a "has been" until they discover his shooting skills when he is called on to shoot the rabid dog. They see a side to their father that they weren't aware of before, plus they get a free lesson on discretion and humility as well.

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