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To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 10 Summary
Jem and Scout think their father super uncool, not to mention old. He can't even play football, like the other kids' fathers do. Plus, kids at school are giving them grief about the Tom Robinson case, and Scout can't even fight now that she's promised her dad not to. And Atticus refuses to teach Scout and Jem how to shoot their shiny new air rifles. Luckily, Uncle Jack steps up. Atticus tells Jem that "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" (10.7). Although apparently bluejays are okay. Scout grumps about how their neighborhood is all old people, and Miss Maudie acknowledges that there aren't any 20- or 30-somethings around to be role models. Miss Maudie tries to defend Atticus ( he's a checkers grand master! he can play the Jew's Harp!), but Scout is not impressed. Then Jem is all depressed when his father refuses to join in on the town's Methodists vs. Baptists football game. Seriously, worst dad ever. Right? One day Jem and Scout go off to find local wildlife to kill when they see a dog acting kind of strange. Calpurnia dashes for the phone to tell Atticus that there's a mad dog (i.e., rabid) on the loose. Then she talks to Miss Eula May, the town telephone operator, to tell her to let everyone else on the street know that they should stay out of the way of the rabid animal. The Radleys don't have a phone, so Calpurnia runs over to their place, bangs on their front door, and shouts, "Mad dog's comin'!" (10.72). Everyone hunkers down inside to watch the dog. The dog finally gets within range of Heck Tate's rifle, but he wants Atticus to make the shot. See, if he misses, the bullet will hit the Radley Place. And Mr. Tate knows he can't shoot that well. Atticus reluctantly takes the weapon, walks to the middle of the street, aims, fires, and kills the dog. Jem is flabbergasted. This is apparently like all of a sudden seeing your dad make a perfect three-point jump shot or make it through the Expert level of a Guitar Hero song you've been failing. Miss Maudie tells Jem and Scout that Atticus "was the deadest shot in Maycomb County in his time" and his nickname was "Ol' One-Shot" (10.137). So why have Scout and Jem never heard their dad talk about it? Well, Atticus feels that his marksmanship is a God-given talent that gives him an unfair advantage over other living creatures, and that he shouldn't use it unless he has to. Scout wants to brag to everyone at school about her father's shooting skill, but Jem tells her not to, because he thinks Atticus wouldn't want her to, since he's never mentioned it before. Jem says that he wouldn't care if Atticus couldn't do anything, because, as he says, "Atticus is a gentleman, just like me!" (10.152). Sounds like someone (Jem) has learned a valuable lesson.
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