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To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee

THE STORY

PART TWO

CHAPTER 14

Alexandra's family loyalty does not stop her from getting into arguments with Atticus. First of all, Aunt Alexandra wants to fire Calpurnia. Now that the children are older, she argues, they shouldn't be under the influence of a black woman. Alexandra feels sure that she herself would set a better example, especially for Scout. But this time Atticus stands his ground. He refuses to fire Calpurnia, and he talks back to Alexandra when she tries to convince him that his involvement with the Tom Robinson case will ruin the whole family. The children have never seen Atticus argue with anyone before, and Jem tells Scout that for the time being they should be careful not to add to Atticus' troubles.

This turns out to be a hard resolution to keep. One night after she has turned out the lights in her bedroom Scout steps on something warm and smooth, like hard rubber. Terrified, Scout is sure that she has a snake in her bedroom. But when Jem comes to investigate he finds Dill hiding under Scout's bed.

Earlier, Dill had written to say that his mother had remarried. He claimed to be very happy, and told Jem and Scout that he would not be spending his summers in Maycomb anymore. Now Dill admits tearfully that he has not been happy at all. His mother and stepfather were not unkind to him, but they never seemed to want him around. Dill has run away and he begs Jem and Scout to hide him so that he won't be forced to return home.


Jem doesn't hesitate a minute. As much as he hates to betray Dill, he knows that he will have to tell Atticus that Dill is in the house. With this decision Jem has entered the world of adult responsibility. He sees at once that hiding Dill would only create more problems for Atticus, and that Dill's family must be terribly worried about him. Fortunately everything works out well for Dill. Once they get over being angry with him for running away, his mother and stepfather are happy to let him spend the summer in Maycomb with his aunt.

 

NOTE:

Dill's appearance in a chapter that is devoted mostly to the problems caused by Aunt Alexandra presents an interesting contrast. Aunt Alexandra is always harping on the importance of family background, which is the one advantage Dill does not have. Dill has never known his real father, and his mother is indifferent to him. Yet he is a loving person, full of imagination and affection. Is Dill any worse for not having "gentle breeding?" Obviously not. Yet Dill does feel the lack of a family. He would probably be happy to have an aunt like Alexandra constantly fussing over him.

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