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Although Harper Lee's creation of Atticus Finch is one of the most unforgettable characters in American literature, my favorite character in the novel is a minor one. Dolphus Raymond is one of the outsiders of the story. A wealthy white man who owns property along the banks of the Alabama River, Raymond prefers living and socializing with Negroes. He has a black mistress and a number of "mixed" children with her. Maycomb's white citizens will have nothing to do with "this sinful man," but Raymond doesn't seem to mind. He gleefully stumbles around town sipping from a straw submerged in the hidden contents of a bottle inside a paper sack. Everyone believes it is whiskey inside, and Raymond does nothing to still this assumption. Like Tom Robinson and Boo Radley, Dolphus is the butt of rumor and innuendo--a man to be avoided by the respected members of the community. He has also suffered tragedy--his fiance committed suicide after discovering the truth about Dolphus's black mistress--but he soon proves to Scout and Dill that he is both harmless and an unapologetic pretender. He is no drunk, and his stagger is only a ruse to fool the rest of the town. It is not whiskey but Coca-Cola in the bottle--a secret that he will only reveal to the children. Dolphus presents a bit of comic relief during the volatile trial, and his meeting with the children serves as another learning experience for Scout, who soon recognizes that--like Tom and Boo--Raymond's reputation rests primarily on unfounded gossip and lies. But Raymond is not just the town prankster: He is sincere about his love for his black friends, and he cries
"... about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they're people, too." (Chapter 20)
Feared, misunderstood and even hated by white people, Dolphus is beloved by the African Americans of the town--just like Atticus--and there is no other character in the novel who better exemplifies the color-blind racial fairness of Atticus Finch. Dolphus only appears once in the novel (for less than two pages), but he is a powerful and unforgettable presence in a novel full of memorable characters.
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