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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What does Scout wish was different about Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Before Scout discovers some of Atticus' talents previously unknown to her, she expresses some disappointments about her father. Since "he was nearly fifty," he was older than most of her friends' fathers, and his advanced age and late start at parenting "reflected upon his abilities and manliness." Scout wished Atticus had a more exciting job, such as a farmer, mechanic or dump-truck driver. His glasses and poor inherited eyesight were a sore point. Additionally, "He never went hunting, he did not play poker or fish or drink or smoke." When Atticus caught Scout aiming her air rifle at Miss Maudie's rear end, he warned her to never point it at anybody again. At that point, Scout "wished my father was a devil from hell," echoing Miss Maudie's joking retort to Atticus' remark about Scout's "genrous target."

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In the first half of To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout naively wishes for and/or regrets the following regarding her father:

  • that he play football for the Methodists (i.e., be more physical and active); this is mainly Jem's gripe, but Scout echoes it
  • that he defends "niggers," which causes her trouble at school from boys' taunting
  • that he has already taught her to read, thus causing her grief with her first grade teacher, who says she has been taught incorrectly

In short, she resents him not being like the other, younger "dads" who treat children, well, as children.  She doesn't yet realize just how trusting Atticus is when he refuses to treat his children condescendingly.  She will change her mind on all of the above points later, after the trial.

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Scout wishes Atticus was more like the fathers of her classmates. She sees him as old (nearly 50) and he doesn't seem to do anything - just works in an office. Because of his age, he won't play tackle football with Jem. He won't teach them to shoot an air rifle. Even though Miss Maudie tries to get Scout to see her father differently, it is not until the incident with the mad dog that Atticus seems to have any discernible talent in Scout's eyes. At that point, she wants to go tell everyone at school how her dad is a crack shot. Jem, however, tells her not to because Atticus is a gentlemen.

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Early on in the novel, Scout and Jem wish that Atticus was a more traditional Southern man.

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