To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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How does the following quote from chapter 1 of To Kill a Mockingbird relate to John Wesley and to Simon Finch being an apothecary? "Simon made a pile practising medicine."

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter one, Scout gives the reader background information regarding her family's history and elaborates on how her ancestor Simon Finch came to establish a homestead on the banks of the Alabama River named Finch's Landing. Scout mentions that Simon Finch was a fur-trapping apothecary from England who fled religious persecution and immigrated to the United States. She also mentions that Simon Finch was a Methodist and initially attained wealth in America by practicing medicine. Scout says,

"Mindful of John Wesley’s strictures on the use of many words in buying and selling, Simon made a pile practicing medicine, but in this pursuit he was unhappy lest he be tempted into doing what he knew was not for the glory of God, as the putting on of gold and costly apparel. (Lee, 4)

John Wesley was not only the founder of Methodism but also wrote a book on medicine titled Primitive Physick, which gave practical medical advice and cures to individuals who could not afford to pay to see a private physician. As a follower of John Wesley, Simon Finch was more than likely inspired to practice medicine in order to selflessly help and heal the less fortunate. However, Simon Finch veered away from practicing medicine and purchased three slaves on his way to establishing a self-sufficient homestead on the banks of the Alabama River.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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More than likely he was a "snake oil salesman" since as an apothecary he would make and sell drugs.  In those days, there were all kinds of drugs invented by pharmacists.  Some of them actually worked, most did not.  Scout says:

"Mindful of John Wesley's strictures on the use of many words in buying and selling, Simon made a pile practicing medicine ..." (chapter 1).

It sounds like Simon Finch was a good salesman.  He was stingy, so he saved what he made.  John Wesley was a Methodist theologian, so it appears that Simon Finch used Methodist principles, or his interpretation of them, to make himself a better salesman.  He was successful enough to make the Finches an important name, and he is the founder of the “good family” that Aunt Alexandra tries to remind Scout of constantly.

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