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Harper Lee introduces this misunderstanding to the reader through Cecil Jacobs and Miss Gates. On a very basic level, the misunderstanding reminds the reader of the innocence of youth...Cecil doesn't even really know what persecution is. On a deeper level, this small misunderstanding allows Harper Lee to highlight the hypocrisy that existed in the South in the 1930's: Miss Gates is horrified by the persecution of the Jews during WWII, but she allows this very same kind of persecution to exist in her hometown. Lee also uses this misunderstanding to remind the reader of the striking similarities between the persecution of the Jews and the prosecution of Tom Robinson. Both are innocents being targeted due to others' prejudicial beliefs.
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