Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

In To Kill a Mockingbird, why are Jem and Scout embarrassed about their father in chapter 10?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At the beginning of chapter 10, Scout elaborates on the various reasons she and Jem are embarrassed by their father. Scout mentions that Atticus is a "feeble" man, who is nearly fifty and is not physically active like many of their friends' fathers. Atticus also does not have an interesting job like driving a dump truck or working on a farm. Scout also laments the fact that Atticus wears glasses and does not seem very manly. According to Scout, Atticus is a relatively boring person, who prefers to read instead of playing poker, fishing, or drinking with the other men in the community.

Later in the chapter, Scout and Jem are astonished to discover that their father is an expert marksman after he shoots and kills a rabid dog named Tim Johnson on the first shot. They are also perplexed to know why Atticus never told them that he was an expert marksman, who earned the nickname Ol‘ One-Shot as an adolescent.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Scout the narrator opens Chapter 10 of To Kill a Mockingbird by describing Atticus as old and feeble:

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. (Ch. 10)

In other words, Scout and Jem are embarrassed by the fact that Atticus is older than the fathers of other kids their age and feel he is feeble because of his age.

In their eyes, Atticus's feebleness is revealed in many ways. First, Atticus is unable to play football with Jem, which severely disappoints Jem since he loves football so much. Atticus is able to play keep-away, but whenever asked to play tackle football, Atticus replies, "I'm too old for that, son." Second, Scout feels his feebleness is reflected in his boring job. In Scout's eyes, Atticus doesn't do anything interesting like "drive a dump-truck for the county," be a sheriff, a farmer, or work in a garage. All Atticus does is work in an office, which is not "anything that could possibly arouse the admiration of anyone."

However, as the chapter progresses, the children soon learn Atticus has talents he keeps secret, such as excellent marksmanship. As the novel progresses, the children learn just how admirable Atticus's job as a lawyer truly can be.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team