To Kill a Mockingbird
How we cite our quotes:
But why had he entrusted us with his deepest secret? I asked him why.
"Because you're children and you can understand it," he said, "and because I heard that one-"
He jerked his head at Dill: "Things haven't caught up with that one's instinct yet. Let him get a little older and he won't get sick and cry. Maybe things'll strike him as being—not quite right, say, but he won't cry, not when he gets a few years on him." (20.18-22)
Growing up means going from weeping uncontrollably at displays of injustice, to feeling a vague sense that things aren't quite right. The good: it's hard to get through the day if you're weeping uncontrollably. The bad: vague feelings aren't usually enough to make anything change. Is there a way to keep the sharp sense of injustice without needing to carrying a hankie everywhere?
"Atticus-" said Jem bleakly.
He turned in the doorway. "What, son?"
"How could they do it, how could they?"
"I don't know, but they did it. They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it—seems that only children weep. Good night." (22.14-17)
Is it "children" who are weeping, or only Jem, Scout, and Dill? Is it simply being children that causes them to be sad about Tom's fate, or are their other factors? We doubt Cousin Francis is losing any sleep about it.
"Don't talk like that, Dill," said Aunt Alexandra. "It's not becoming to a child. It's—cynical."
"I ain't cynical, Miss Alexandra. Tellin' the truth's not cynical, is it?"
"The way you tell it, it is." (22.32-34)
Aunt Alexandra has an idea of what childlike behavior is (sweet and innocent, the Olsen twins before they hit puberty) and expects Dill to conform to that. But maybe this idea of childhood isn't entirely natural—it's just what adults expect children to be like.