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What does this quote mean: "People generally see what they look for, and hear what they...

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mscat | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 28, 2013 at 8:20 PM via web

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What does this quote mean: "People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for, and they the right to subject their children to it" from To Kill a Mockingbird?

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 28, 2013 at 8:36 PM (Answer #1)

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Judge Taylor is basically saying that anyone who brought a child to the rape trial knew what they were in for.

Judge Taylor has some unique methods of keeping court, but even though he often seems to be asleep he is keeping track.  Tom Robinson’s trial is the event of the year, and is a spectacle.  Therefore it has a big audience.

"There has been a request," Judge Taylor said, "that this courtroom be cleared of spectators, or at least of women and children, a request that will be denied for the time being….” (ch 17)

Judge Taylor goes on to say that people have a right to subject their children to whatever they want to, and it seems as if he is saying most children won’t understand the nuances anyway, but the adults will because they are listening for them.

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mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted January 12, 2015 at 2:25 PM (Answer #2)

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When Atticus takes the case of Tom Robinson, he knows that it will be the biggest thing in Maycomb county. He wants to show Jem and Scout, that doing the right thing, isn't always the popular thing. When the case goes the trial, the whole town is there to watch it. Judge Taylor knows that there will be lots of people who will disagree with some of the things being said.

The town is divided. There is going to be tension in the courtroom. Judge Taylor is aware of this and tells the people how they are supposed the act in his courtroom. 

"People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for, and they have the right subject their children to it, but I can assure you of one: you will receive what you see and hear in silence or you will leave this courtroom."

What he is saying is that people have the right to think what they want. They have the right to let their children see what is going on, but they don't have to the right to disrupt his courtroom. The quotes itself means if a person is looking for something, they will usually see it and if they listen for something they will usually hear it. Atticus has his children in the courtroom everyday. He wants them to see what is going on and know that Tom is innocent. He has the right to do this. Judge Taylor just wants everyone in the courtroom to be respectable of his rules and allow the case to go on as it should.

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