What is the irony of Miss Gates' statement?

Expert Answers
mrshh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Gates was Scout's schoolteacher.  One day during an in class discussion, the topic of Adolf Hitler came up.  Miss Gates expressed her dislike for Hitler.  She also showed her empathy for the Jews in Europe.  She compared the dictatorship of Germany to the democracy of the United States.  Miss Gates told her students that:

'"Over here [people] don’t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced.'"

Miss Gates made it clear that prejudiced individuals treated groups of people badly.  She also stated that such things were against the beliefs of the United States.

Scout approached Jem one day with a question.  On the last day of the trial, she had overheard Miss Gates talking.  Her teacher had stated that it was "'time somebody taught [black people] a lesson, they were gettin‘ way above themselves.'"  She then expressed her disapproval of the idea that someday black people may want to marry white people.  

These statements were puzzling to Scout.  How could Miss Gates protest the persecution of the Jews, and yet speak to condescendingly of black people?  She wondered how Miss Gates could "'hate Hitler so bad'" and then speak of those in her own community in such a terrible way.  Miss Gates had stated that anyone who persecuted a group was prejudiced.  She also had said that such a thing was not tolerated in the United States.  Despite her words, black people in Maycomb and many other places were treated poorly.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question