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To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee

THE STORY

PART TWO

CHAPTER 20

While Scout and Dill are sitting outside the courthouse talking about the trial, they discover that the notorious Dolphus Raymond is resting under the same oak tree. Raymond sees that Dill is in tears and offers him a drink from the bottle he is carrying in a paper bag. To the children's surprise, the bottle contains Coca-Cola. Raymond confesses that he is not really a drunkard. He only pretends to be one so that other people will leave him alone and let him live the way he wants to. If the white people of Maycomb County thought that Mr. Raymond preferred to live among blacks, they would make trouble. This way, they assume that he lives as he does because respectable people do not want him around. Scout is amazed once again at the strangeness of human nature. It has never occurred to her that anyone might pretend to be worse than he is, just to win the right to be let alone.

 

NOTE:

As you read this scene, you might ask yourself why the author interrupts the drama of the trial to introduce a minor character who plays no part in the main plot line. Notice that at one point Mr. Raymond sympathizes with Dill for being sickened by the "hell people give other people- without even thinking." Children can see such things and be upset by them, Mr. Raymond adds, but most people as they grow older learn to ignore the ugly side of life.

Perhaps Mr. Raymond has put his finger on the real villain in the Tom Robinson affair: complacency. Too many people in Maycomb are willing to go along with an unjust system simply because that is the easy way, the way things have always been.

You may not necessarily agree with this answer. Perhaps you feel that to blame everyone allows the individuals who are most responsible to get off too easily. However, if you read closely, you will notice that this answer comes up more than once in the course of the story.


Dill and Scout go back into the courthouse just in time to hear Atticus' closing speech to the jury. Atticus emphasizes that he does not believe in complete equality: Some people may be born richer, or smarter, or with more talent than their fellow human beings. But there is one kind of equality that he does believe in very much- equality under the law. For this reason, he asks the jurors to do the right thing and find Tom Robinson innocent.

Atticus' speech expresses his deepest beliefs. But notice that it is also a very clever appeal to the consciences of the jurors. He never asks them to change their ingrained prejudices about race. All he asks is that they set their prejudices aside for a moment in favor of the democratic ideals they give lip service to. Instead of challenging the jurors directly, he appeals to the better side of their natures.  

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