Why is Scout puzzled by Miss Gates' disapproval of Hitler?

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janeyb's profile pic

janeyb | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Scout is puzzled because Miss Gates doesn't disapprove of the way black people are treated because of their race, but she disapproves of how the Nazi's discriminate against the Jews because of their religion. Its one of many contradictions Scout finds when dealing with grownups and racism. Especially since Miss Gates complains about Black's getting "above themselves." Miss Gates, like most, is a hypocrite

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mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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In chapter 26 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout is now in the third grade. Her teacher, Miss Gates, wants the children to start talking about current events. When Cecil Jacobs talk about Hitler and what he is doing to the Jews, Miss Gates shows her disgust for Hitler.

"That's the difference between America and Germany. We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship...over here we don't believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced... There are no better people in the world than the Jews, and why Hitler doesn't think so is a mystery to me."

Scout is having a hard time trying to understand Miss Gates, and it is bothering her when she gets home. She tries to ask Atticus about it, but decides to ask Jem, since he is better at the school stuff. She tells him that Miss Gates hates Hitler and what he is doing to the Jews, and Jem wants to know what is wrong with that.

"Well, coming out of the courthouse that night Miss Gates was-she was goin' down the steps in front of us, you musta not seen her- she was talking with Miss Stephanie Crawford. I heard her say it's time somebody taught 'em a lesson, they were gettin' way above themselves, an' the next thing they think they can do is marry us. Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home-"

Scout can see how Miss Gates is being a hypocrite. Miss Gates thinks it is horrible what Hitler is doing, yet she is basically doing the same thing right here at home, feeling the way she does about black people. This is the first time we see Scout really show her maturity. Atticus has raised Jem and Scout to be decent people, and Scout is upset when she sees an injustice being done right under her nose.

litgeek2015's profile pic

litgeek2015 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Scout is confused because Miss Gates has a rule for one group of people, the Jews, and follows another rule for a different group of people, African-Americans.

In comparing Germany and the U.S., Miss Gates clearly tells the class that:

Over here we don't believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced. There are no better people in the world than the Jews, and why Hitler doesn't think so is a mystery to me" (Ch. 26).

Miss Gates obviously has no prejudice against the Jews, and has trouble understanding why anyone would. Yet Scout overhears Miss Gates tell Miss Crawford that the blacks are "getting way above themselves," and she's worried that they'll begin to start marrying whites. This is the same type of fear that Hitler advanced in his own speeches, and Scout is rightly perplexed as to why Miss Gates can have two very different views.

This chapter is yet another illustration of the hypocrisy and racism that exist within Maycomb, and we are reminded of how silly some of the arbitrary rules are that grown-ups have constructed when we see those rules through the eyes of Scout, who is too young to really understand the complexity of prejudice.

ardvark's profile pic

ardvark | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

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Scott is puzzled because Miss Gates is a hypocrite. She dissaproves of how the Jews were discriminated by the Nazis but essentually that is the exact same thing that happens in Maycomb every single day. The whites make the blacks feel like they are of a lesser people which was never true. People are people. This type of hypocracy and discrimination is the true reason Tom Robinson was killed leaving prison. He was only accused of rape in the first place because Mr.Ewell needed someone to blame for his "mistake" (abusing his daughter) and it was just so easy for him to blame the black man. Miss Gates contradicts herself which is why Scott is truly puzzled.

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