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What's Atticus description of a "nigger-lover" in To Kill a Mockingbird (ch 11)?

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user6303446 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 29, 2013 at 11:08 PM via web

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What's Atticus description of a "nigger-lover" in To Kill a Mockingbird (ch 11)?

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

Posted May 30, 2013 at 12:06 AM (Answer #1)

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Atticus tells Scout that there is no meaning to the term and it is just an insult to describe someone who favors Negroes.

Scout’s cousin Francis describes Atticus as a “nigger-lover” and makes it sound like a terrible insult.  Scout admits to Uncle Jack that she does not know what it means, but does not like the way Francis said it and especially did not appreciate him insulting her father.

After the incident with Mrs. Dubose, Scout asks Atticus what the term means.  He explains to her that it means nothing.

“[Nigger-lover] is just one of those terms that don't mean anything- like snot-nose. It's hard to explain- ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody's favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It's slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody." (ch 11)

Atticus tells Scout repeatedly not to use the word “nigger” because it is “common.”  By this he means it is a crude and inappropriate word.  It is unusual for someone to disagree with the use of the term in a place like Maycomb at this time.

Truth be told, Atticus does care about Negroes.  He does want to defend Tom Robinson.  He is simply doing his job, and some people do not like that because they want things to stay the way they are, with blacks as second-class citizens.

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