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To Kill a Mockingbird

by: Harper Lee

Lying

1

“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 them.”

Atticus says this to his brother Jack, who has tried to discipline Scout for using inappropriate language. Although the quote occurs in a humorous context, the idea that children cannot understand lies or evasions has broader resonances for the novel as a whole. First, it explains Atticus’s parenting philosophy of being straightforward with his children. Second, it reassures us that Scout’s narration is reliable, not only because Atticus tells her the truth about the events happening but also because as a child she is less likely to lie than an adult.

2

“I said I would like it very much, which was a lie, but one must lie under certain circumstances and at all times when one can’t do anything about them.”

This is Scout’s answer when Atticus asks her if she would like her aunt to come live with them. The statement is characteristic of Scout, who often repeats aphorisms that she has heard elsewhere, but with a slight twist. Here, she expresses a much more advanced understanding of lying than Atticus believes she has and also demonstrates her interpretation of the limits placed on her.