In To Kill a Mockingbird, can you give an example of an odd/unusual/uncharacteristic tone or theme anywhere in the novel?Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

1 Answer | Add Yours

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It is rather curious that Harper Lee includes in her novel certain allusions to the hypocrisy and incompetence of those in the teaching profession. In Chapter 2, for instance, the neophyte teacher, Miss Caroline, represents those educators who adhere to whatever theory of education is popular because they do not know how to teach themselves.  In her case, it is supposedly the teachings of John Dewey--Jem mistakenly calls these teachings the "the Dewey Decimal System," which is the arrangement of books in the school library. While John Dewey believed that education's purpose does not revolve around the acquisition of a pre-determined set of skills, but that these skills are better acquired as the student interacts in the social context, Miss Caroline reveals her lack of understanding of Dewey's philosophy as she contradicts Dewey's very principles when she chastises Scout for reading The Mobile Register and for saying her father "does not know how to teach" when, Atticus, is actually following Dewy's principles. 

Further in the narrative in Chapter 20, Atticus himself alludes to the incompetence and delusions of teachers as he inveighs against the educational system in his closing arguments in the courtroom:

"The most ridiculous example I can think of is that people who run public education promote the stupid and idle along with the industrious--because all men are created equal, educators will gravely tell you, the children left behind suffer terrible feelings of inferiority. We all know that all people are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe...." 

Later in the novel in Chapter 26, there is mention of the hypocrisy of one of the teachers, Miss Gates, discussing the racial prejudices the Nazis had against the Jews, but she later expresses her own racial prejudice against the Negroes in Maycomb--"It's time somebody taught 'em a lesson...."  

These allusions to teachers and their profession seem to indicate a rather acrimonious tone on the part of the author, Harper Lee.

 

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,991 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question