What hypocrisy occurs in To Kill a Mockingbird, and what are some quotes to provide evidence of the hypocrisy? 

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout is witness to various forms of hypocrisy during the story, and most of them involve the women of Maycomb. Scout's teachers are both guilty of hypocritical words and actions: Miss Caroline unfairly punishes Scout, who is merely trying to lend the inexperienced teacher some assistance. Miss Caroline apparently believes herself educationally superior to most of the town, including Atticus, but she is unable to control her classroom on the first day of school. Scout acknowledges that

Had her conduct been more friendly toward me, I would have felt sorry for her.  (Scout, Chapter 2)

Miss Gates displays hypocrisy during her lessons about Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany. Miss Gates staunchly defends the Jews who are being persecuted by the rise of the Nazis, and this puzzles Scout, since she remembers overhearing a conversation in which Miss Gates states that

"... it's time somebody taught 'em [Negroes] a lesson, they were gettin' way above themselves..."  (Scout, Chapter 26)

Scout can't understand how a person can "hate Hitler" and defend the Jews in Germany

"... an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home."  (Scout, Chapter 26)

But worst of all are the women of the missionary circle, who are willing to give their spiritual and financial support to the "poor Mruna" tribe in Africa but not to Maycomb's own black citizens. Scout found that Mrs. Merriweather, "the most devout lady in Maycomb," was both insensitive and racist. Men, Scout decided,

... did not trap you with innocent questions to make fun of you... they weren't--
     "Hypocrites... born hypocrites."  (Scout, Chapter 24) 

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 24, Aunt Alexandra hosts her missionary circle, where the Christian women of Maycomb come together to socialize and discuss J. Grimes Everett's missionary work in Africa. However, Mrs. Merriweather reveals her hypocrisy by telling Mrs. Farrow,

"Gertrude, I tell you there’s nothing more distracting than a sulky darky. Their mouths go down to here. Just ruins your day to have one of ‘em in the kitchen. You know what I said to my Sophy, Gertrude? I said, ’Sophy,‘ I said, ’you simply are not being a Christian today. Jesus Christ never went around grumbling and complaining." (Lee, 236)

Mrs. Merriweather's comments not only illustrate her lack of sympathy and perspective but also portray her racism. Mrs. Merriweather is supposed to be discussing Christian matters but hypocritically behaves like a gossiping racist by referring to Sophy as a "sulky darky," while simultaneously dismissing her feelings concerning the verdict of the Robinson trial.

In chapter 26, Scout's teacher, Miss Gates, makes the children do a Current Events activity in class. Cecil Jacobs discusses Hitler's reign in Germany during the activity and comments on Hitler's persecution of the Jews. Miss Gates then makes the hypocritical statement,

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

Miss Gates's comment regarding the absence of prejudice in America is hypocritical and false. Her ability to criticize the persecution of the Jews in Germany but ignore the overt prejudice in her own community of Maycomb illustrates her hypocritical nature.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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