From chapter 10 of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:

Mr. Tate jumped off the porch and ran to the Radley Place. He stopped in front of the dog, squatted, turned around and tapped his finger on his forehead above his left eye. “You were a little to the right, Mr. Finch,” he called. “Always was,” answered Atticus. “If I had my ‘druthers I’d take a shotgun.”

After Atticus shots the mad dog, Mr. Tate tells him that he was a little to the right. What does that mean?

Then Atticus says “If I had my ‘druthers I’d take a shotgun”. What does it mean? I'm not a native English speaker, so I'm a little confused.

1 Answer 1


"A little to the right" is simply a description of Atticus' aim. Rather than hitting the dog square in the forehead, Atticus aimed a bit too far to the right. That's why Tate taps the left of his forehead, because the target is a mirror image of the shooter. Atticus aiming right means the shot hit the dog on the left.

"Druthers" is an American term that means "preference". It's American English and regional slang - user @dawood-ibn-kareem has kindly done a Google Books Ngram search to suggest its use peaked around 1980 but is still in use today. It's a contraction of "I'd rather" which is why the author prefixes it with an apostrophe to indicate the missing letter. Merriam-Webster has it as:

: free choice : PREFERENCE —used especially in the phrase if one had one's druthers

And there's a good example of it in Mark Twain's novel Tom Sawyer, Detective:

Any way you druther have it, that is the way I druther have it.

So Atticus is saying he'd prefer to shoot with a shotgun. Shotguns create a blast across a radius of space, so are very forgving if your aim tends to be "off" as Atticus says that his often is.

  • 7
    If I recall correctly, there's some irony in the discussion of Atticus's aim being off, since in fact his aim is incredibly good: he shoots the dog through the head on the first try from pretty far away.
    – DLosc
    Mar 13, 2023 at 21:37
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    @dlosc yes, I dimly recall this: it's been a long time since I read the book. Too long to include that in the answer with any certainty :)
    – Matt Thrower
    Mar 13, 2023 at 21:38
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    As an AmE speaker, I've never heard the term 'druthers outside of literature.
    – AAM111
    Mar 14, 2023 at 14:24
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    I am a native AmE speaker and I have heard (and used) "druthers" in regular conversation. A typical usage would be "If I had my druthers, ...." I've always assumed it arose from "I would rather" --> "I'd rather" --> "I druther". Mar 14, 2023 at 16:56
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    According to the Google Books Ngram, "druthers" peaked around 1980 and is still going fairly strong. I wouldn't consider it archaic, but it's definitely regional slang. There are places where you're likely to hear it a lot, and places where you'll never hear it. Mar 15, 2023 at 1:09

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