In Chapter 20 of To Kill a Mockingbird, what do Scout and Dill learn about Dolphus Raymond? 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Dolphus Raymond is the notorious town drunk who staggers through Maycomb clutching a bottle in a paper bag. He has a black mistress and several mixed children, which is why the racist community of Maycomb views him with contempt. In Chapter 20, Dill and Scout find out that he is not actually a drunk, and the bottle in the paper bag is simply Coca-Cola. Dolphus explains his reasoning as to why he pretends to be drunk.

In Chapter 19, Jem makes Scout take Dill out of the courtroom because he starts to cry after hearing Mr. Gilmer question Tom Robinson disrespectfully. Dill explains to Scout that he didn't like the way Mr. Gilmer was talking down to Tom and says that it makes him sick. Outside the courthouse, Dolphus Raymond hears Dill crying and tells him that he has something to settle his stomach. Scout is reluctant to follow Dill, and as Dill sips out of the infamous brown-bag, he smiles and tells her it's only Coca-Cola. Scout is puzzled and asks Dolphus why he pretends he's drunk all the time. Dolphus smiles and explains to Scout that people in Maycomb don't like the way he lives, so he pretends to be drunk because it "helps folks latch onto a reason." (Lee 268) Dolphus tells Scout that the people of Maycomb could never understand why he chooses to live the way he does. When Scout asks why Dolphus would entrust them with his secret, he tells them they are children and can understand it. He explains how they haven't seen enough of Maycomb to understand the extensive amount of prejudice throughout the county. Dolphus tells Scout and Dill that the older they get, the more they will witness white people discriminate against black people. Eventually, the racial inequality will become so commonplace that it won't even bother them anymore.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial