In Chapter 10, explain the references to Scout's "policy of cowardice" in "To Kill a Mockingbird". On what occasion has she changed her policy?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 10, Scout explains that she has "committed (herself) to a policy of cowardice", which caused word to get around that "Scout Finch wouldn't fight any more, her daddy wouldn't let her".  She is referring to an earlier incident, in Chapter 9, when Atticus asks her personally to "do one thing for me...just hold your head high and keep those fists down...no matter what anybody says to you, don't you let 'em get your goat".

When the town discovers that Atticus is going to defend Tom Robinson, a Negro, things get ugly for the Finches.  At school, Cecil Jacobs announces that "Scout Finch's daddy defend(s) niggers", and when she finds out from Jem what he means, Scout's natural reaction is to fight Cecil Jacobs.  After Atticus talks to her, however, Scout feels that if she fought Cecil, she "would let Atticus down...Atticus rarely asked...(her) to do something for him...(Scout) could take being called a coward for him".  This, then, is her "policy of cowardice".

Scout does note that her adherence to this policy only goes so far.  Although she "wouldn't fight publicly for Atticus...the family was private ground...(she) would fight anyone from a third cousing upwards tooth and nail" if they spoke ill of her father.  When her cousin, Francis Hancock, calls Atticus a "nigger-lover", Scout does not hesitate to punch him in the teeth.  The "policy of cowardice" does not apply to Francis, because he is family, and thus the matter is "private" (Chapter 9-10).

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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