To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee
Contributed by Sharon Fleming
Chapter 10

The Robinson case has made Atticus the talk of the town, and Jem and Scout cannot understand why people are criticizing him even though he has been a very good man. He doesn't smoke, hunt, fish or play poker like all the other Maycomb dads. Scout thinks about the air rifles they got for Christmas that uncle Jack had taught them how to shoot but Atticus warned them never to kill a mockingbird because it is a sin. Miss Maudie also states that mockingbirds only make good music for people and hence it is a sin to kill them. She speaks of growing up with Atticus and the things he is good at such as playing checkers and the Jew's harp and having a strong will, but Scout isn't impressed.

Later, Jem and Scout spot a dog named Tim Johnson strolling down the street looking strange. They inform Calpurnia who tells Atticus, and they conclude that the dog is rabid. Atticus arrives with Sherriff Tate who aims its gun at the dog. Afraid he might miss and launch a bullet into the Radley property, he hands the gun to Atticus who kills the dog with a single shot. As they leave, the kids hear Miss Maudie calling Atticus ‘One-Shot Finch,' which she later explains to the kids that among his best attributes, Atticus has the most accurate shot in Maycomb County.


Scout and Jem are startled with the people’s criticism of Atticus. Because of this, their perspective of their father changes. They now see him not only as a father but also as a human being who has other roles to play apart from the ones he plays in the family circle. Maybe it is the criticism and anger directed towards Atticus by the people that makes Scout to wish that her father was like other dads in the town, with the same hobbies such as hunting and fishing. Scout and Jem learn about their father’s past from Miss Maudie and they realize that he is just like all the other dads in Maycomb. However, Scout finds her father’s hobbies of reading and playing checkers more boring compared to other dads who fish, hunt and smoke. Their perspective about their father changes when Atticus kills a rabid dog with one shot. They realize they never knew this side of their father before and wonder why that is so. He explains that shooting a gun well is not something to be proud of and should only be used when necessary. The fact that Sheriff Tate trusted Atticus with his gun symbolizes the high esteem that the people of the town have for him. Jem and Scout learn a significant lesson on the importance of humility.

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