Hypocrisy In To Kill A Mockingbird

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Harper Lee's Maycomb there are several personality types and among them are social hypocrites and religious hypocrites. 

Social hypocrites

  • Miss Gates

While Miss Gates deplores the treatment of the Jews by the Nazis, scolding a student in class, she is heard by Scout telling Miss Stephanie Crawford on the steps of the courthouse that "it's time somebody taught 'em (blacks) a lesson, they were gettin' way above themselves...." (Ch.26)

  • Mayella Ewell

It is not until the trial of Tom Robinson that Mayella becomes hypocritical, for she genuinely has craved affection, especially just some attention, from Tom whom she stopped on the pretext of breaking up an old chiffarobe. But, when her father saw a black man in the ramshackle house with his daughter, he became enraged. For, Bob Ewell has nothing and no one to be better than except "a Negro."

After her choleric father enters and Tom runs, he beats Mayella and forces her to fabricate a story that implicates Robinson as having made advances upon her. She even perjures herself under her father's constraints, accusing Tom of trying to rape her, and in her shame for her hypocrisy, she refuses to answer any questions after Atticus has "hit her" with hard questions. As she steps down from the stand, Scout observes,

...I never saw anybody glare at anyone with the hatred Mayella showed when she left the stand and walked by Atticus's table. (Ch. 18)

  • Bob Ewell

Certainly unable to live up to the name of one of the leading commanders in the Civil War, Robert E. Lee Ewell, Bob Ewell still tries to establish his racial superiority, although he is known as a shiftless drunkard. Like his daughter, Ewell perjures himself and also implicates himself in Mayella's beating. Further, when Atticus proves him a liar, Bob vows revenge upon Atticus. (Ch. 17)

Religious hypocrites

  • Aunt Alexandra

As an upstanding member of the Ladies of the Maycomb Alabama Methodist Episcopal Church South, Aunt Alexandra holds a missionary tea at which she discusses with Mrs. Merriweather a preacher who is in an African mission. However, Aunt Alexandra refuses to let Atticus's black housekeeper, Calpurnia, prepare the refreshments.(Ch. 24)

  • Mrs. Merriweather

After raving about what a wonderful man the "saintly" Rev. J. Grimes Everett is and how he is "fighting" so hard for the people at his mission in Africa, she complains that her black maid is "sulky" and "dissatisfied"; she even threatens to fire her for getting such grand ideas.  Mrs. Merriweather also intimates that Atticus is not following social mores because he defends Tom Robinson: 

"I tell you there are some good but misguided people in this town. Good, but misguided."

Yet, while she disapproves of Atticus, she hypocrically comes to his house and socializes with his sister and pretends to be a good Christian.(Ch. 24)

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