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To Kill a Mockingbird - Chapter 9
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Cecil had announced in the schoolyard the previous day that "Scout Finch's daddy defend[s] n*****."
As the chapter begins, Scout is yelling at Cecil Jacobs, a boy at school. Why are they fighting?
Scout is so furious with Cecil for not taking back what he said that she is about to hit him. Then, she remembers what Atticus had told her: "You might hear some ugly talk...at school, but do one thing for me...hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don't let 'em get your goat." Scout drops her fists and walks away from the fight.
How does the fight end?
Cecil calls her a coward but she feels just the opposite. She feels noble because she did what her father asked her to do: "Somehow, if I fought Cecil I would let Atticus down. Atticus so rarely asked Jem and me to do something for him, I could take being called a coward for him. I felt extremely noble for having remembered...."
What makes Scout feel "noble"?
Atticus is defending a black man named Tom Robinson. Robinson and his family go to Calpurnia's church and are considered "clean-living folks" by her.
Who is Atticus defending?
Some people in Maycomb are saying that Atticus should not be defending Robinson. Atticus tells Scout that if he did not defend the man, then he essentially would be disregarding his profession as a lawyer, as well as his own code of ethics. He would not be able to respect himself, nor could he expect others to respect him, including his own children: "...I couldn't hold up my head in town, I couldn't represent this county in the legislature, I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do something again."
What are people in the town saying about the case, and what is Atticus's response to the gossip?
Atticus says, "Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win."
Answers may vary on the second part of the question. Example: Atticus is most likely
referring to the deep-rooted racism in Maycomb County, which goes back hundreds of
years. Although the novel is set nearly seventy years after the abolition of slavery, prejudice against black people is still very much alive in America, especially in Deep South states like Alabama. Atticus is saying that entrenched racism is what has already "licked" Robinson's chances of a fair trial. However, this is not going to cause Atticus to simply give up and not even try to win the case.
When Scout asks Atticus if is he is going to win the case, he tells her, "No, honey." She then asks him why he is taking on a case that cannot be won.
What is his response, and what do you think he is referring to?
Scout says that the "internal arrangements of the Finch house were indicative of Simon's
guilelessness and the absolute trust with which he regarded his offspring." At first, this makes the reader think that Simon Finch was a straightforward and honest man who trusted his children. However, when Scout continues, it is clear that she is being sarcastic. She explains that the bedrooms where the daughters had slept were accessible only by one staircase, while the son's bedroom and the guest room could only be reached by a different staircase.
Additionally, the "Daughters' Staircase was in the ground-floor bedroom of their parents, so Simon always knew the hours of his daughters' nocturnal comings and goings." Scout's use of verbal irony provides humor and also emphasizes that Simon Finch was not at all a guileless and trusting person. He was just the opposite—deceitful and distrustful
As she describes the "internal arrangements" of the house at Finch's Landing, Scout uses verbal irony (or sarcasm) to make a point about Simon Finch's character. Explain her use of verbal irony and what she means to say about her ancestor.
Francis calls Atticus a "******-lover" and says that he is "ruinin' the family."
What does Francis say about Atticus?
Francis is not much older than Scout, and it is obvious that his racist remarks come directly from the adults around him. He is the grandson of Aunt Alexandra, Atticus's sister. His statements prove that even Atticus's own sister is a racist and is against the idea of Atticus defending a black man: "Grandma says it's bad enough he lets you all run wild, but now he's turned out a ******lover we'll never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb agin."
How do his comments illustrate that racism existsnot just in the other residents of Maycomb, but within the Finch family as well?
Scout yells at him, "He is not!...I don't know what you're talkin' about, but you better cut it out this red hot minute!" When Francis starts up again, Scout punches him, "split[ting] [her] knuckle to the bone on his front teeth."
How does Scout react to Francis's taunts?
Uncle Jack punishes Scout by spanking her several times in front of everyone
What is the result of her action?
Scout tells Uncle Jack what Francis said about Atticus. Jack now realizes that Francis was the one who started the fight and that Scout's reasons for hitting him were understandable.
How does Scout explain her behavior to Uncle Jack?
Scout explains that Jack had acted unfairly when he punished her before getting all of the
facts: "...you never stopped to gimme a chance to tell you my side of it—you just lit right
into me. When Jem an' I fuss Atticus doesn't ever just listen to Jem's side of it, he hears mine too...." She adds that when Jack had scolded her for swearing, he had said that such words should be used only under "extreme provocation." She maintains that Francis's hurtful remarks fell under the category of extreme provocation.
According to her, what was unjust about the way he punished her
Scout makes Uncle Jack promise not to tell Atticus about the incident; she wants to protect Atticus from knowing what Francis said. More importantly, she does not want Atticus to know that she let her temper get the best of her.
What does she then make him promise?
With the trial coming up, it is likely that the children will hear many more unkind things said about their father. Atticus knows that Scout has a fiery nature and that it is difficult for her to walk away from fights, especially when she feels the need to defend her father. As he states to Uncle Jack, "What bothers me is that she and Jem will have to absorb some ugly things pretty soon. I'm not worried about Jem keeping his head, but Scout'd just as soon jump on someone as look at him if her pride's at stake...."
As Jack and Atticus talk together in the evening, Atticus says that Scout must "learn to
keep her head" in the next few months. Why is he concerned about her?
Atticus reveals that the case involves the Ewells. He also tells Uncle Jack that the situation could not be worse: "The only thing we've got is a black man's word against the Ewells'...The jury couldn't possibly be expected to take Tom Robinson's word against the Ewells'...." Atticus admits that he will not win the case due to the racial prejudice of the jury.
What further information is provided about the Robinson case as the chapter comes to a close?
However, his plan is to "jar the jury a bit," perhaps try to nudge their conscience. He then plans to appeal the case if he loses it, claiming that they may have a "reasonable chance on appeal."
What is Atticus's plan regarding the case?
Atticus compares racism to a disease. He says he hopes that Jem and Scout will be able to get through the trial without "catching Maycomb's usual disease." His remarks further suggest that racism is a mental disease or a type of insanity: "Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don't pretend to understand...."
Near the end of the chapter, Atticus refers to the ingrained racism among the residents of Maycomb. How does he describe racism in this passage? To what does he compare it?
Atticus knows that Scout might take his advice more seriously if it is not given directly. He also wants her to know that she and Jem can trust him and come to him with any questions during the impending difficult time: "I just hope that Jem and Scout come to me for their answers instead of listening to the town. I hope they trust me enough...."
Scout ends the chapter with the words, "...I never figured out how Atticus knew I was listening, and it was not until many years later that I realized he wanted me to hear every word he said." Why do you think Atticus wanted Scout to hear what he said during his conversation with Uncle Jack?
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