Do you think the author meant but did not say this statement from To Kill a Mockingbird: Rev. Sykes is portrayed as paternalistic and dogmatic.Do you think the author meant but did not say this...

Do you think the author meant but did not say this statement from To Kill a Mockingbird: Rev. Sykes is portrayed as paternalistic and dogmatic.

Do you think the author meant but did not say this statement from To Kill a Mockingbird: Rev. Sykes is portrayed as paternalistic and dogmatic.

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e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Sykes' assitance to Jem and Scout when they attend his church and when they need seats in the courthouse constitute some paternalism, I'd say. This can also be said of his attempts to get Scout and Dill to leave the courthouse when the testimony of the trial turns to sensitive issues. 

I agree with the posts above when it comes to dogmatism...I'm not sure I can point to specific episodes that would demonstrate dogmatism on his part.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Yes, he is to a certain extent but that is not necessarily a bad thing. He was overseeing a difficult time n Maycomb. I think that most preachers are a bit dogmatic, and paternalistic. A minister's duty is to shepherd his flock, which means to guide them and take care of them. This requires a certain amount of both dogmatism and paternalism. It is Sykes's job to guide his congregation through the difficult trial and aftermath.
accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Yes, dogmatism in the way that this word is normally thought of seems to have little to do with the character of Reverend Sykes, who, as #2 establishes, shows that he can actually be flexible and open in his thinking. Note in particular the way that he deliberately does not support Lula in her belief that Jem and Scout should not be welcome in Calpurnia's church. However, as #3 establishes, he is definitely paternalistic, and that is because he does his job well and takes his responsibilities seriously.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I don't really see any evidence that Sykes is dogmatic.  However, that may be because I agree with his points of view.  For example, you can argue that Sykes is being dogmatic when he welcomes the kids to the First Purchase.  He is assuming that they should be allowed there and sticking to that even in the face of Lula's ideas.  But I don't see that as dogmatic because I think he's right.

As far as paternalism goes, definitely.  From the pulpit, he calls out individual members of the congregation and tells them how to live their lives as if he is their parent.  He badgers the congregation to give more money for Helen Robinson.  He is definitely paternalistic in this way.

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I would wholeheartedly agree that Reverend Sykes displays a paternalistic streak, but I wouldn't necessarily call him dogmatic. When Calpurnia invites Jem and Scout to join her for services at First Purchase AME, Rev. Sykes welcomes them and patiently answers their questions afterward. After the children arrive in the courtroom but can find no seats, Rev. Sykes leads them to the balcony to sit with Tom's supporters. He keeps an eye on them and even suggests that Scout leave when the testimony becomes too emotional. Following the verdict, he makes certain that Scout stands with the others as they honor Atticus.

However, Rev. Sykes' understanding of the Maycomb social system doesn't necessarily mean he is dogmatic. (Dogmatism is defined as an arrogant or stubborn opinion viewed as if it were an established fact.) Although Rev. Sykes states that

"I ain't ever seen any jury decide in favor of a colored man over a white man..."

he is merely speaking from experience and not from a hopelessly stubborn belief. Rev. Sykes also says that he believed Judge Taylor

"... was mighty fair-minded... I thought he was leanin' a little to our side." 

These words show that he still has some hope for a fair trial and, eventually, Tom's acquittal.

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