What is the meaning of the cartoon in the Montgomery Advertiser that Scout doesn't understand?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This cartoon shows up in Chapter 12.  It shows Atticus as a little boy wearing shorts and no shoes.  He's chained to a desk and doing school work while some girls call to him.

The meaning of the cartoon is that Atticus is sort of a geek.  He is always working and is too serious.  As Jem says, it shows that Atticus does things that wouldn't get done otherwise, but the cartoon is making fun of Atticus for doing them.  The cartoon shows this because it has him chained to a desk working while the other kids are trying to get him to do something else.

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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At the beginning of chapter 12, Atticus is away on business with the state legislature for two weeks. One morning while he's away, the kids discover a political cartoon in the Montgomery Advertiser with the caption "Maycomb's Finch" (116). There in picturesque satire is a cartoon of their father chained to a desk, wearing short pants, barefooted and slaving over his work. There are some girls in the scene who are trying to get his attention, but  he is apparently ignoring them and studying or working hard. Scout doesn't understand the symbolic images in the picture, but Jem does his best to explain that it is really a compliment because "He spend his time doin' things that wouldn't get done if nobody did 'em" (116).

A better explanation might be found by breaking down each of the images. For example, the fact that Atticus is portrayed as wearing short pants without shoes either indicates that he is like a naive, young boy or a slave. With the girls trying to get his attention, it's more likely that he is being shown as a naive schoolboy who is uninterested in having fun in life. The chain that binds him to his desk could refer to slavery as well, but also connotes the fact that he is being forced to take the Tom Robinson case against his will, which isn't the case at all. Either way, the news of the case has reached Montgomery and Atticus is in the spotlight.


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