What passages in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird show secrecy in Maycomb?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the best well-kept secrets in Maycomb County is the fact that Dolphus Raymond is actually not a drunkard. Dolphus Raymond is a wealthy landowner in Maycomb but also a social outcast because he lives with and has born children with an African-American woman. He is also believed to be a drunkard because he is frequently seen drinking from straws out of whatever is inside of a brown paper sack he carries. However, when Dill must leave the courtroom because Tom Robinson's unfair treatment has made him sob, Scout and Dill learn the truth about Mr. Raymond.

Mr. Raymond offers Dill a sip from his paper sack, saying it will "quieten [him]," and it turns out to be nothing but Coca-Cola. Scout, then, wants to know why he pretends to be drunk. Mr. Raymond explains that no one in Maycomb is able to understand why he prefers to live with an African-American woman; therefore, he has decided to give the citizens of Maycomb an excuse for his behavior so that they can think to themselves, "He can't help himself, that's why he lives the way he does" (Ch. 20). Though Mr. Raymond agrees with Scout, who asserts his behavior "ain't honest," Mr. Raymond sees his pretense as a means of creating a social bridge between his own desires and those who reject the way he wants to live his life. In pretending to be drunk, he creates a means for the racist people of Maycomb to accept Mr. Raymond regardless of their racism.

A second well-kept secret in Maycomb is the fact that Atticus is actually a sharpshooter. Atticus has allowed his children to think he is incapable of doing anything interesting, even shooting, because of his age. Yet, Miss Maudie and Sheriff Tate know the truth about Atticus's abilities. Atticus demonstrates his abilities the day it becomes necessary to protect the neighborhood from a rabid dog. Since Sheriff Tate sees they only have one shot at killing the dog, he hands his riffle to Atticus, who astounds his children with his abilities. Miss Maudie later explains that Atticus gave up shooting and kept his abilities a secret because he dislikes having an "unfair advantage over most living things" (Ch. 10).

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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