Explain Miss Maudie's statement about relative dangers of a Bible and a whiskey bottle."To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Miss Maudie of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird has the wisdom to know that in the hands of sanctimonious hypocrites like the "foot-washing Baptists" anything can become evil, for it is not the object itself that is good or bad, but as Hamlet says, "but only thinking that makes it so."  That is, in the hands of a twisted heart such as that of Mr. Radley, the Bible can be interpreted to mean what is convenient for him, not what is truly meant. 

Like the Bible, the whiskey bottle--inanimate and containing no intrinsic good or evil--can become the instrument of an evil heart such as that of Bob Ewell, who drinks to excess and then abuses his family.  But, in the hands of a temperate man such as Atticus Finch, the whiskey bottle would not be misused and Atticus would never commit an immoral act.  Miss Maudie give voice to the observations of her author, who has probably noticed the incongruities of some of the Philistines of her hometown located in the area known as the Bible Belt.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Miss Maudie says this in Chapter 5.

What she is saying is that religion makes people do worse things than whiskey.  At least, she is saying it is possible for that to happen, depending on the person doing the drinking.

Specifically, she is referring to Arthur Radley.  She says that he has let religion warp his life, basically.

She says that, by contrast, Atticus could get drunk and still be a good man.  So she is saying that some people can be corrupted and warped by religion just as much as others can by alcohol.

 

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