To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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Explain Atticus's statement about the use of the word "nigger" in To Kill a Mockingbird.

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When Scout initially uses the racial slur "nigger" in front of her father, Atticus chastises her for using the word and tells Scout not to say it again because its "common." In chapter 11, Scout's racist neighbor refers to Atticus as a "nigger-lover," which upsets Jem to the point that he destroys Mrs. Dubose's camellia bush. As punishment, Atticus makes Jem read to Mrs. Dubose every day for a month. One night, Scout asks her father the definition of a "nigger-lover" and explains to him that she felt offended by the tone that Francis and Mrs. Dubose used when they said the term. Atticus responds by telling his daughter,

"Scout . . . nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything—like snot-nose. It’s hard to explain—ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s...

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