How does Harper Lee create sympathy for Scout in chapter 9 of her novel To Kill a Mockingbird?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Harper Lee, in Chapter 9 of her novel To Kill a Mockingbird, creates sympathy for Scout in a number of ways, including the following:

  • At the very beginning of the chapter, she shows that Scout is being picked on at school because her father is willing to defend black people in court. Scout thus seems doubly sympathetic: because she is being tormented for someone else’s behavior, and because the people tormenting her are racists.
  • Atticus makes it clear to Scout that he expects to lose the court case and also that he will be opposing friends while handling the case. Both of his comments make us feel sympathy for Scout, because she will probably be on the losing side of the legal case and because she and her family are likely to lose – or at least antagonize – friends in the process.
  • Scout has to control her temper in order to be loyal to her father. We sympathize with her desire to respond with anger to the taunting she receives, but we also sympathize with her loyalty to her father.
  • Later in the chapter, Scout suffers from the prejudice of some members of her own extended family, who criticize Atticus (when he isn’t present) for defending Tom Robinson, the black man accused of sexual assault. It is one thing for Scout to hear her father attacked by other children at school. It is even worse (and thus makes Scout seem even more sympathetic) for her to have to hear such attacks from members of her own family.
  • When Scout is physically punished by her uncle Jack for using profanity, we sympathize with her because we know that Jack is ignorant of the full circumstances that led her to use such language. He doesn’t allow her to explain herself before he punishes her. As Scout herself puts it later, when speaking to Jack,

“you never stopped to gimme a chance to tell you my side of it—you just lit right into me.”

Being provoked by other children is bad enough, but being punished unfairly by adults is indeed unfair and thus makes us even more sympathetic to Scout than we had been already.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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