Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

What is the gist of chapter 10 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers

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

In this chapter, Scout and Jem learn to have pride in their father. As the chapter begins, they both wonder if Atticus is good at anything. At age 50, he's older than the other fathers they know, and he claims he's too old to participate in the Methodist Church versus the Baptist Church tag football game. 

But when the dog Tim Johnson becomes a "mad dog," most likely rabid, driving the entire block's residents into their houses, Atticus rises to the occasion. He goes out and shoots the dog dead in one shot, impressing Jem and Scout. 

The two also learn something about their father's character: not only is he a good marksman, which they hadn't realized, he's a modest man. They begin to see that it's not that he lack talents, but that he doesn't like to brag about them. They learn too that he is a man who resists taking advantage of others, even other creatures in the world.

When Scout and Jem ask their neighbor, Miss Maudie, why Atticus doesn't sharp shoot since he's so good at it, she explains as follows:

Marksmanship’s a gift of God, a talent—oh, you have to practice to make it perfect, but shootin’s different from playing the piano or the like. I think maybe he put his gun down when he realized that God had given him an unfair advantage over most living things. I guess he decided he wouldn’t shoot till he had to, and he had to today.



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