What evidence of Southern superstition is a result of ignorance and fear in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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

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There are many examples of superstitions in To Kill a Mockingbird though most of them are not specifically restricted to Southern life. Most of the superstitions mentioned are experienced by Jem and Scout. There are Hot Steams, when

"... somebody who can't get to heaven just wallows around on lonesome roads an' if you walk through him, when you die you'll be one too..."

Calpurnia, however, disregards this superstition as "nigger-talk." Many of the children's other superstitions, such as " 'Haints... incantations (and) secret signs had vanished with our years as mist with sunrise" as they grew older. Indian Head pennies are "real strong magic," according to Jem. The carved soap figures found in the knothole of the tree are initially regarded as "hoo-dooing"--voodoo--by Scout, who "shrieked and threw them down."

Adults had their superstitions, too. Aunt Alexandra feels that "somebody just walked over my grave" prior to Bob Ewell's attack on the children after the Halloween pageant. Mr. Avery believes that Jem and Scout are responsible for the early snowfall experienced in Maycomb. There are examples of Radley superstitions, such as the pecans that Boo poisons and then tosses into the school yard for children to eat. Walter Cunningham Jr. claims to have been sickened from these. When "azaleas froze during a cold snap, it was because (Boo) had breathed on them." Negroes would not walk by the Radley House at night.

These beliefs, by both adults and children, are simply the result of ignorance, gossip and the unexplained nature of events that may occur.


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