Compare and contrast the Christmas gifts that Jem receives and the gifts that Francis receives in To Kill a Mockingbird.

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In chapter 9, Jem and Scout receive air rifles from their Uncle Jack for Christmas while Francis Hancock tells Scout that he received "a pair of knee-pants, a red leather booksack, five shirts and an untied bow tie" (Lee, 83). Jem and Scout's gift symbolically represents their rough, active personalities. They enjoy shooting bluejays and tins cans in their backyard. Atticus later teaches them an important lesson about not killing mockingbirds while they are playing with their air rifles, which metaphorically relates to the importance of protecting innocent beings.

Their Christmas presents couldn't be more different than Francis's gifts, which represents their contrasting personalities and interests. When Francis elaborates on his Christmas gifts, Scout lies to him by saying, "That's nice" (83). Francis's gifts symbolically represent his preppy, "superior" personality. Francis is depicted as an arrogant boy, who believes he is better than Scout, Jem, and Dill. He makes several derogatory remarks about Atticus following Christmas dinner, and Scout ends up punching him in the mouth.

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I've always gotten a kick out of Cousin Francis's excitement over the Christmas gifts he receives:

     "What'd you get for Christmas?" I asked politely.
     "Just what I asked for," he said. Francis had requested a pair of knee-pants, a red leather booksack, five shirts and an untied bow tie.  (Chapter 9)

Most eight year old boys would have preferred the gifts that Jem received--an air rifle and a real chemistry set--but not Francis. He is already on his way to becoming quite the dandy, and author Harper Lee seems to be suggesting that Francis is the exact opposite of his tomboy cousin, Scout. Lee has given him a name usually reserved for women, and there are many other gender role-reversal aspects to his character. He is dying to learn how to cook--his grandmother Alexandra is "gonna teach me how"; he believes that "men oughta be careful with their wives and wait on 'em..."; he loves to gossip; and he is unable to defend himself from Scout's ruthless assault when she "split my knuckle to the bone of his front teeth." Francis prefers to hide behind the skirts of his grandmother for protection and lie about the events that caused the fight with Scout--things that Jem and Scout would never consider doing. Alexandra seems to be bringing Francis up in the same manner in which she hopes to transform Scout into a proper lady.

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