To Kill a Mockingbird – Chapter 10

Atticus is older than the other fathers and does not do many of the things that they do.According to Scout, “he never went hunting, he did not play poker or fish or drink or smoke.He sat in the livingroom and read.” Scout feels that Atticus is somewhat dull compared toother fathers, and she implies that she and Jem are slightly ashamed of him. For example, she complains to Miss Maudie that Atticus “can’t do anything….” She later explains how Jem felt at the town’s big football game: “Everybody in town’s father was playing, it seemed, except Atticus. Jem said he didn’t even want to go…and he stood gloomily on the sidelines with Atticus and me watching Cecil Jacobs’s father make touchdowns for the Baptists.” Scout compares Atticus to other fathers. What is different about Atticus, and how do Scout and Jem seem to feel about the difference?
When Jem and Scout receive their air-rifles, Atticus tells them not to shoot at mockingbirds:”I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot allthe bluejays you want if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” When Scout asks Miss Maudie why it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, she replies that they “don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why The novel’s title, To Kill a Mockingbird, is referenced in this chapter. In what context is it presented?
As Miss Maudie states, mockingbirds cause no harm; theironly goal is to sing for people and bring them enjoyment. Because they are harmless andbenevolent creatures, they symbolize innocence itself. If a mockingbird symbolizes innocence, then the title, To Kill a Mockingbird, suggests the death or destruction of innocence, one of the novel’s major themes. How might the killing of a mockingbird be a metaphor for one of the novel’s majorthemes? For example, what might mockingbirds symbolize?
SHORT ANSWER:Em and Scout, Boo Radley, Tom RobinsonLONG ANSWER: Scout and Jem embody the innocence of childhood. However, as they mature and gain knowledge of the problems in the adult world, their innocence becomes threatened. Boo Radley can also be compared to a mockingbird. Everything about his character indicates that he is a kind, gentle, and harmless person. He has been mentally abused and imprisoned by his family. Additionally, the townspeople, in their ignorance, vilify him as some kind of a monster. Finally, Tom Robinson may be seen as a mockingbird as well. Although it is not yet known if he is innocent of the crime of which he is accused, it is obvious that he is the victim of the town’s racial prejudice and that he will not receive a fair trial because of it. Like Boo Radley, he is probably an innocent man who will be destroyed by ignorance and prejudice. Which of the novel’s characters thus far might be considered similar to mockingbirds?
A sick, rabid dog is stumbling down the street. People are terrified, as the bite from a maddog is fatal if not treated immediately. What dramatic incident causes people to lock their doors and stay inside?
Atticus kills the mad dog with a single rifle shot to the head. Jem and Scout are surprised to learn that Atticus was the best shot in the county when he was a young man. According to Miss Maudie, his nickname had been “Ol’ One-Shot.” She adds, “Why, down at the Landing when he was coming up, if he shot fifteen times and hit fourteen doves he’d complain about wasting ammunition.” Not only is Atticus an expert marksman, he is also extremely modest about it, having never even mentioned his skill to Jem and Scout. What does Atticus do that surprises the children and makes them feel proud? What dothey learn about their father from Miss Maudie?
Several characters note that it is extremely unusual to seea rabid dog in the month of February. The rareness of the event suggests that the dog’s appearance may be symbolic, as it coincides with the news of Tom Robinson’s trial and the deep-seated racial intolerance that begins to surface as a result. The dog’s sickness can be compared to the metaphorical sickness of the town. Students may recall that in the previous chapter, Atticus referred to Maycomb’s racism as a “disease” and noted that “reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up.” Since rabies is a highly contagious virus that affects the brain and causes an animal to go “mad,” parallels can be drawn between the dog’s disease and the town’s. Finally, Atticus is the person who ultimately destroys the mad dog and saves the neighborhood. He also is the only person in town who is willing to take on Tom Robinson’s case, confronting the racism of Maycomb head on. It is as if the sickness of the town has been lying beneath the surface, and the upcoming trial brings it out into the open in all its ugliness, like the image of a rabid dog suddenly appearing in the middle of the street. Some people suggest that the mad dog is a symbol for the evil that exists in Maycomb, specifically the racist attitudes that many of the townspeople have. What evidence can you find in this chapter or previous ones that support this idea?
Atticus is a modest person; Jem understands this and feels that it would not be right to brag about him: “I reckon if he’d wanted us to know it, he’da told us. If he was proud of it, he’da told us.” Jem makes it clear that he loves and respects his father for the kind of person he is, explaining to Scout, “Atticus is real old, but I wouldn’t care if he couldn’t do anything—I wouldn’t care if he couldn’t do a blessed thing.” Jem’s words demonstrate that he is maturing. At the beginning of the chapter, he was somewhat ashamed of Atticus because he seemed too old to do the things other fathers did. Now, however, Jem realizes that a person’s worth has little to do with youth and physical prowess. Although he is in awe of his father’s shooting abilities, he respects and admires Atticus for being “a gentleman” above all else. Jem seems to be seeing his father in a new light and from a more mature viewpoint. Scout is excited about the thought of telling everyone in school that Atticus is the “deadest shot in Maycomb County.” However, Jem tells her not to say anything about it. What are his reasons? How does this exchange further demonstrate that Jem is growing up?

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