To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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In To Kill A Mockingbird, Miss Gates says of Americans "we don't believe in persecuting anybody".  Why is this an odd claim for her to make?

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missy575 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think Miss Gates is sort of made out to be a bad gal in this chapter but the truth is she was a reflection of a centuries old American problem. We are a great hypocrisy at times. Our framers wrote words of equality into our Declaration of Independence and Constitution in the late 1700s but did not themselves honor those claims.

It is an odd claim to us because we live after the year 2000. And we live much later than the Civil Rights Movement. It took so long for racial equality to occur in our country because it was a new idea when we began. Peoples lived with each other for centuries in ethnic groups, not cross-culturally. It took generations of re-teaching for racial equality to be grasped. Scout's character was likely an adult by the Civil Rights Movement. Watch she watched play before her eyes as a white young girl laid the groundwork for the ambition for many white folks to help achieve this equality. Miss Gates was a generation Scout's senior and had been ingrained to believe that blacks are less than. Scout was never taught that and this makes what she heard so odd to her because this situation with Hitler wasn't about color, it was about faith. But Scout saw the parallel and it didn't sit well with her.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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write35,413 answers

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Well, think about what has happened in this book so far.  And think that about the attitudes that people in Maycomb have.  Can you think of why this is an odd claim?

So far in the book, a black man has been convicted of a crime that he clearly did not do.  He has been convicted mostly because of his race and because the white people of Maycomb feel the need to keep black people "down."

So when Miss Gates says that Americans are so much more tolerant than the Germans, it seems pretty odd given what has just happened with Tom Robinson and given the attitudes of whites in Maycomb.

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