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In Chapter 18 of To Kill a Mockingbird, how does Atticus appear to feel about his...

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phoenix123- | Student, Grade 10 | eNoter

Posted October 29, 2012 at 8:02 PM via web

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In Chapter 18 of To Kill a Mockingbird, how does Atticus appear to feel about his method of cross-examining Mayella?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 29, 2012 at 8:37 PM (Answer #1)

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It is clear to Scout that Atticus takes "no pleasure" in the way in which he is forced to cross-examine Mayella Ewell. Mayella stubbornly stands her ground from the very beginning of her testimony--first with Mr. Gilmer and then with Atticus--claiming that Atticus is trying to scare and humiliate her " 'like he done Papa.' " Atticus begins his questioning with a grin and a smile, but

From long years of experience, I could tell he was trying to come to a decision about something.  (Chapter 18)

Although he assures Mayella that he would just like to get " acquainted,' " Mayella glares at him "furiously." Atticus is "startled" when Mayella claims that he is " 'mockin' ' " her, but he continues to address her politely. A true Southern gentleman, Atticus does not like the turn his questioning takes upon this poor, ignorant teenager, one whom Scout wonders aloud if " 'she got good sense?' " Atticus's questions confuse Mayella, who contradicts her own testimony several times, and this leads Atticus to eventually "rain(ed) questions on her." He probably hoped that Mayella might finally confess the truth, but instead his tough questions brought only more tears and, finally, silence.

     When Atticus turned away from Mayella, he looked like his stomach hurt... Atticus sat down wearily.
Somehow Atticus had hit her hard... but it gave him no pleasure to do so. He sat with his head down, and I never say anybody glare at anyone with the hatred Mayella showed when she left the stand...  (Chapter 18)

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