How was Dill's comment on his aunt's alcoholism cynical.Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In the Deep South there are colloquial meanings for some words.  For instance,  the word to aggravate someone is used to mean to irritate or rile that person whereas it does not have that meaning in other geographical areas.  Since the author, Harper Lee, is herself a resident of southern Alabama, there is a strong possibility that the use of the word cynical by Aunt Alexandra in Chapter 22 is given a colloquial meaning since it clearly does not mean its dictionary denotation of distrusting the sincerity of the motives of others as it appears.  There, Aunt Alexandra thinks that Dill tries to deflect his own wrongdoing by criticizing his aunt.  Thus, to her, to make a person look bad in the face of one's own wrongdoing is cynical.  What may be cynical, however, is Dill's suspicion of Aunt Rachel's concern for him. This sentiment is expressed in Dill's remark, "she's just seein' too many snakes in the closet," for with this observation Dill does express some doubt about his aunt's motivations.

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