What does Mr. Raymond mean when he says that things haven't caught up with Dill's instinct yet in Chapter 20 of Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail's profile pic

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

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The prosecutor's cross-examination of Tom Robinson was too much for Dill, who began crying in the balcony of the courtroom. Scout led him outside for a breather, where they met Dolphus Raymond. Raymond settled Dill's stomach a bit with a swig of Coca-Cola and some soothing reassurances. When Scout asked why Raymond had "entrusted us with his deepest secret"--that the bottle in the sack actually contains no whiskey--he told them that they were innocent enough to understand. In a few years, Raymond said, Dill wouldn't cry so easily about such matters. Life would later harden him:

"Let him get a little older and he won't get sick and cry... you haven't seen enough of the world yet."

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

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When Dill and Scout leave the courthouse in Chapter 19, it's because Dill is crying over the way Mr. Gilmer treats Tom Robinson disrespectfully during the trial. Mr. Raymond overhears Dill and Scout discussing the upsetting scene, so he invites them over to help calm Dill down with a swig of Coke. In Chapter 20, Scout becomes preoccupied with the fact that Mr. Raymond reveals that he pretends to drink alcohol and live the life of a drunkard. However, the comment he makes about instinct has nothing to do with Scout's discovery. Mr. Raymond's concern is for Dill growing up in a racist society. To him, racism is instinctual, not taught and learned. Since Dill is still young and innocent, Mr. Raymond believes that Dill has a few more years before his "instinct" takes effect. The following is what Mr. Raymond says:

"Things haven't caught up with that one's instinct yet. Let him get a little older and he won't get sick and cry. Maybe things'll strike him as being--not quite right, say, but he won't cry, not when he gets a few years on him" (201).

When Mr. Raymond says "things haven't caught up" with Dill, he's referring to prejudice and discrimination. Other "things" might include how white people treat black people as shown by the way Mr. Gilmer speaks to Tom Robinson. Mr. Raymond believes that with a few more years, Dill will naturally accept the way people treat each other in Alabama. 


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