In chapter 20 of To Kill a Mockingbird, what do Dill and Scout learn from Mr. Dolphus Raymond?

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On the surface, the children learn that Dolphus Raymond lies about the true nature of his character. Maycomb has expected differently of Dolphus because he comes from a wealthy family—and he's white. That he would deliberately choose to father children with a black woman is beyond anything white Maycomb social circles can begin to fathom.

Dolphus tries to explain to the children outside the courthouse that he doesn't wish to live in constant conflict with the people in town. He simply wants to live peacefully with his family and friends, just like everyone else. He's therefore developed a false persona for the townspeople that allow them to "blame" his "poor" choices on something they do understand: drunkenness. So, Raymond carries around a paper sack and pretends to sip alcohol from it while staggering around a bit. This alleviates the tension in town as Dolphus plays the part of the town drunk, who can't really be blamed for his "poor" choices in Maycomb. Scout reflects that she "had never encountered a being who deliberately perpetrated fraud against himself."

But the children learn something more about Dolphus Raymond on this day. They learn that the code of conduct for white society is strict and complex. Adults, particularly those from respected families or backgrounds, are expected to uphold the racial stratification in their town. This will become an important factor when they try to weigh the reasons for the jury's siding with Bob Ewell's conflicting testimony during the trial of Tom Robinson, whose actions speak to his noble character.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on March 31, 2020
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It says everything about the level of racial prejudice in Maycomb that a white man has to pretend to be a hopeless alcoholic to be able to socialize with African-Americans. Yet that's precisely what Dolphus Raymond's forced to do. The very idea of a white Southerner choosing to spend his free time in the company of those deemed racially inferior would've been almost unthinkable at the time. But as everyone thinks that Dolphus is a drunk, they give him a pass for his eccentricities.

Dolphus's behavior is also indulged because he comes from an old, respectable family, the kind of "good" family that would meet with Aunt Alexandra's snobbish approval. This shows us that there's a distinct social, as well as racial, pecking order in town, which also prevents the forging of meaningful human relationships on anything like normal terms.

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In chapter 20, Scout and Dill leave the courthouse so that Dill can regain his composure, and the children end up having an enlightening conversation with Dolphus Raymond. Dolphus Raymond is considered a social outcast because he has several biracial children and openly associates with African Americans. The community members of Maycomb also believe that Dolphus Raymond is a notorious alcoholic because he continually drinks from a paper bag and staggers when he walks through town.

When the children walk outside, Dolphus overhears Dill crying and offers him a drink from his paper bag. Dill is pleasantly surprised to discover that there is a bottle of Coca-Cola inside Dolphus's bag. When Scout inquires as to why Dolphus pretends to be an alcoholic, he tells Scout that citizens don't agree with his lifestyle, and says that he feigns alcoholism because it helps people "latch onto a reason."

Dolphus proceeds to tell Scout and Dill that he entrusts them with his secret because they are innocent children, who understand that it is wrong to treat African Americans differently because of their race. Overall, Scout believes that Dolphus Raymond is an extremely interesting person with an intriguing secret. 

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Mr. Raymond,who is looked down upon because he has fathered children of mixed race, tells Dill and Scout that he is not really a drunk as the townspeople believe.  He has chosen to act the part, weaving a little and drinking out of a paper sack, in order to give people a reason they "can latch onto" for disapproving of the way he lives. 

Mr. Raymond knows that the town condemns him because he has defied a social standard rooted in prejudice.  People cannot admit that the reason for their condemnation is rooted in bigotry, however.  It is easier for them to blame his chosen lifestyle, and their disapproval of it, on his drunkenness, and so, even though he sips only Coca Cola from his sack, Mr. Raymond obligingly allows them to cling to this misconception.  Mr. Raymond also says that he is telling his secret to Scout and Dill because, as children, "things haven't caught up to (their) instinct(s) yet."  Because of their innocence, they see the truth as it really is, uncolored by social expectations (Chapter 20).

Mr. Raymond's revelation is important in this chapter because, as the scene shifts to the courtroom where Atticus is defending Tom Robinson, it is evident that the only reason Tom might be declared guilty is because of social preconceptions rooted in racial intolerance.  In order to convict Tom, the jury must deny the truth and rationalize away the evidence of their own biases by hiding behind long-standing social beliefs.

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