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"When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness' sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles 'em." (9.175)
Atticus recognizes that his kids are different from adults, but he respects his children—which means no lying to them or avoiding hard truths. Does this mean no Santa Claus for the Finch kids?
"Son, I have no doubt that you've been annoyed by your contemporaries about me lawing for niggers, as you say, but to do something like this to a sick old lady is inexcusable. I strongly advise you to go down and have a talk with Mrs. Dubose," said Atticus. "Come straight home afterward." (11.43)
Even when others do things that Atticus would rather eat spiders than do, he still thinks they should be treated with respect. In his moral system, just because Mrs. Dubose strikes out at Jem doesn't mean he's allowed to strike back. Atticus is definitely a New Testament kind of guy, turning the other cheek rather than going after an eye for an eye.
"Link, that boy might go to the chair, but he's not going till the truth's told." Atticus's voice was even. "And you know what the truth is." (15.23)
Atticus knows it's more unlikely than a Lindsay Lohan presidency that Tom will be acquitted, and yet getting the truth out there is still an accomplishment—even if we're not quite sure what it'll accomplish.