What is Atticus implying about the adults of Maycomb when he tells Alexandra, "We've made it this way for them, they might as well learn to cope with it," in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?  

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 22 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus says the words in question to Aunt Alexandra immediately after he returns home with Scout and Jem after hearing Tom Robinson's verdict. When Aunt Alexandra sees how upset Jem looks, she scolds Atticus about how unwise it was to let his children observe the trial. Atticus's response is a way of telling his sister that there really is no sense in protecting the children from the evil racism that exists in Maycomb.

When Atticus says the phrase, "We made it this way," he is referring to Maycomb's adult citizens, citizens who are very trapped in their racially prejudiced thinking and have made the choice to keep being racists. Since Maycomb, as well as all of the South in this time period, is racially prejudiced, Atticus is pointing out that the children's home is full of racial prejudices due to the choices of the citizens. He further asserts, when he says that "they might as well learn to cope with it," that it is better for the children to learn racism exists than to hide them from it. Only by learning that it exists will the children be able to learn to deal with any bitterness exposure to racist injustice may bring out in them and learn how to rise above such racism.

When Aunt Alexandra continues to protest, saying that just because the town is racist doesn't mean the children have to go to the courthouse to observe racism in action, Atticus points out the children can observe equal amounts of racism at the missionary teas Aunt Alexandra hosts and wants to expose Scout to. In short, Atticus is asserting that there is no sense in hiding the children from exposure to racism because, in reality, there is no place to hide them from it--racism is everywhere in Maycomb.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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