How is Miss Gates being hypocritical when she discusses the persecution of Jews in Germany in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Gates is being hypocritical because she says that America is better than Germany because we Americans not have prejudice, when in fact the town is prejudiced against African Americans.

Miss Gates is Scout’s third grade teacher.  She asks her students to bring in information from newspapers so they can discuss current events.  When Cecil Jacobs mentions that Hitler has been rounding up Jews, she explains that America is a democracy.  Scout defines democracy as, "'Equal rights for all, special privileges for none."  Miss Gates agrees, saying that Germany is a dictatorship.

"Over here we don't believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced. Prejudice," she enunciated carefully. "There are no better people in the world than the Jews, and why Hitler doesn't think so is a mystery to me." (ch 26)

This incident demonstrates that little has changed in Maycomb.  Miss Gates has sympathy for the Jews, but seems completely unaware that Maycomb treats its own citizens with prejudice every day, a fact that was just reinforced by Tom Robinson’s conviction.  While Scout has matured and moved on, the town has not done the same.

Scout is aware of this hypocrisy, and confused by it.  She does not understand how people can talk about the Nergoes that way.

Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home-" (ch 26)

Jem gets angry and tells her not to talk to him about it anymore.  To him, the pain of seeing the reality of the world is too fresh.  Scout is still trying to puzzle it out.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Gates is hypocritical because she criticizes Hitler's persecution of the Jews while she simultaneously discriminates against African Americans in her own community. 

During a Current Events activity in Miss Gates's class, Cecil Jacobs discusses how Hitler is persecuting the Jews in Europe. Miss Gates then elaborates on the differences between America and Germany before saying,

"Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced" (Lee, 249).

Later on that night, Scout voices her concerns regarding Miss Gates's hypocrisy. Scout tells Jem that she remembers Miss Gates walking out of the courtroom, and overheard her say,

"’s time somebody taught ’em a lesson, they were gettin‘ way above themselves, an’ the next thing they think they can do is marry us" (Lee, 250).

Scout then asks Jem how Miss Gates can despise Hitler while she treats African Americans in her own community with contempt. Unfortunately, Jem gets upset about the fact that Scout brought up the trial and does not answer her question concerning Miss Gates's hypocrisy. Scout's ability to recognize her teacher's hypocrisy reveals her maturation and perspective on life. 

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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