In Chapter 20 of To Kill a Mockingbird, what do you think of Dolphus Raymond and his explanation of his behavior?

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Dolphus Raymond is certainly the most eccentric character in To Kill a Mockingbird. He is probably one of the wealthiest men in Maycomb, owning land along the river and making his money as a cotton grower (Tom Robinson's arm injury occurred while working on one of Raymond's cotton gins). Yet, Raymond doesn't live the life of a normal plantation owner; he has a black mistress and prefers the company of Negroes. Because of this, he is scorned by Maycomb's white population and is the subject of unfounded rumors (not unlike those that surround Boo Radley). Raymond doesn't seem to mind: He thumbs his nose at most of Maycomb, pretending to stagger drunkenly with a bottle hidden within a paper sack. He knows about the rumors, that he is a drunk with whiskey cloaked inside the bag, and he happily plays the part. Scout certainly finds this behavior unusual, telling him

     "That ain't honest, Mr. Raymond, makin' yourself out badder than you are already--"

He recognizes the dishonest nature of his actions but explains that "it's mighty helpful to folks." He knows that people don't "like the way I live," but he doesn't exactly want to say "the hell with 'em" either.

     "I try to give 'em a reason, you see. It helps folks if they can latch onto a reason... if I weave a little and drink out of this sack, folks can say Dolphus Raymond's in the clutches of whiskey--that's why he can't change his ways. He can't help himself, that's why he lives the way he does."

To Raymond, it's an inside joke, but the joke is on the rest of the town--on everyone but Scout and Dill, that is. He "entrusted us with his darkest secret," and they promise to keep it to themselves

"... because you're children and you can understand it."

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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