What could be a thematic symbol in Chapters 22 - 26 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 26 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses Hitler and the Holocaust to symbolize racial prejudices and hypocrisies in the South, specifically in Maycomb County.

In Chapter 26, Scout explains that, each week, her third grade class is assigned to report on a current event based on newspaper clippings brought to class. One day, Cecil Jacobs reports on Adolf Hitler's persecution of the Jews. Miss Gates, Scout's third grade teacher, uses the event to teach the class that persecution does not occur in America because America is a democracy that stands for, as Scout phrases it, "Equal rights for all, special privileges for none," whereas Germany is a dictatorship. Miss Gates further teaches that "persecution comes from people who are prejudiced."

However, Scout sees the irony in Miss Gate's lesson and in her passionate reaction towards the persecution of the Jews. As Scout explains to Jem, the night Robinson was found guilty, she observed Miss Gates walking out of the courthouse ahead of she and Jem and heard Miss Gates talking to Miss Stephanie Crawford. According to Scout, Miss Gates said to Miss Stephanie, "[I]t'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" (Ch. 26). Scout sees it as ironic that the same woman can speak out against the persecution of the Jews while at the same time persecute "folks right at home" (Ch. 26).

Hence, as Scout shows us, Harper Lee used Hitler and the persecution of the Jews to symbolize the South's persecution of African Americans.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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