The speaker of this excerpt is fellow friend and neighbour, Miss Maudie, who is having a conversation with Scout and Jem. Miss Maudie's words were uttered shortly after Atticus had shot a mad dog, Tom Johnson, with a rifle. To his own displeasure, Atticus' heroic performance was before his stunned family, his neighbourhood, and even the sheriff of Maycomb, Heck Tate. Through Miss Maudie's playful remark, this passage is valuable in revealing an important theme. It unravels the theme that manhood is not determined by one's ability to use a gun, but by a person's mind and character. Atticus has not told his children about his talents with a shotgun because he wants to demonstrate to his children that one's integrity and intellect rises above any "macho" physical abilities one might have. Mr. Finch wants his kidsespecially Jemto see that it is a gentleman that makes a real man, not a stereotypical male with a football or a dump truck in hand. This excerpt also shows considerable character in Atticus. It shows that Atticus is a highly humanitarian man. He had chosen to give up his incredible talent to uphold his moral beliefs. Atticus "puts down his gun" (p.98) to give all living things an equal chance to live. This passage is significant in To Kill a Mockingbird, as it shows Atticus' character and the theme that manhood is not determined by one's ability to use a gun, but by their mind and character.
Lee, Harper, To Kill a Mockingbird. Pennsylvania: Warner Books, Inc., 1960