What does Scout mean when she uses a reference to Mr. Jingle in To Kill a Mockingbird?Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 18 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Mayella Ewell is called to the witness stand during the trial for rape of Tom Robinson.  In comparing her to her father, Bob Ewell, Scout remarks that Mayella is not brash like her father in her testimony; instead she is "stealthy...like a steady-eyed cat with a twitchy tail."  And, as Atticus meticulously, but politely, questions her, she feigns offense at having been asked to repeat her age.  Then, after Atticus's next question, she becomes furious,

"Won't answer a word you say long as you keep on mockin' me....Long's you keep on makin' fun of me."

As she continues her objections, diverting the direction of Atticus's questioning and becomes evasive in her next answers, Scout observes,

Mayella sounded like a Mr. Jingle in a book I had been reading.

Here Scout alludes to a comical character in Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, the book she has been reading. Mr. Alfred Jingle, a strolling actor, is a humorous trickster and charlatan who employs a strange syntax (e.g. disjointed sentences) of the English language and weaves rather strange tales.  His comic, but devious tricks affect greatly the other characters, the Pickwickians.


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