Analyze identity, theme
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Miss Maudie explains that Atticus doesn't shoot unless he has to, because he feels that when he holds a gun, God has given him an unfair advantage over living beings. Atticus doesn't believe in hurting animals or people; however, in the name of public safety, Atticus's moral code calls for him to protect his family and neighbors and kill the dog. Again, this shows how a law, such as nature's law or even a personal law such as Atticus's avoidance of guns, must sometime be bent toward a higher aim.