What sort of person is Dolphus Raymond in To Kill a Mockingbird? (Chapter 16)

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Dolphus Raymond is a wealthy white man who uses a false public persona to help him cope with social disapproval. He is in a long-term relationship with a black woman, and they have several children, but the law prohibits interracial marriage. He is introduced as eccentric who drinks and socializes with black men. Later, Raymond is also kind to Dill when the boy becomes upset during the trial.

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Dolphus Raymond is one of the most complex and contradictory characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. Although he only appears occasionally in the novel, Raymond’s status as a misfit in Maycomb reveals the deceptions in which individuals might feel compelled to engage if they wished to continue living in a segregated, racist Southern town. Because he is well-to-do and his family history is well-known in Maycomb, most of the town’s white people tolerate Raymond’s eccentric behavior even though they disapprove of it. Raymond is a white man who was widowed, and for many years has been in a long-term relationship with a black woman, with whom he has several children. In that era, there were laws against interracial marriage or “miscegenation.” Raymond shows kindness when he goes out of his way to help Dill when he overhears him talking with Scout outside the courtroom.

Because he understands that many people in Maycomb are seeking excuses for what they regard as unusual behavior, he has created the impression that he is an alcoholic. He allows people to continue thinking this, knowing that they are seeking reasons for what they regard as otherwise inexplicable behavior: being married, in every way but under the law, to an African American woman. When he finds Dill struggling with his emotions over the prejudice he witnessed in the courtroom, he lets the children in on his secret as a way to help them understand how adults may cope with everyday racism.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on May 20, 2020
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If you are only to chapter 16, you only know half of Dolphus Raymond's story. He seems to be a person who is on the lower-edge of society, in the eyes of most Maycomb-ites. He is a wealthy man--he owns a lot of land by the river. However, his first wife killed herself and the town blames that for Dolphus' constant state of drunkenness. They also blame his lifestyle of being drunk--he lives with the black folks, and has mixed children with a black woman. Jem notices Dolphus going to town during the trial and tells this information to Scout, saying that Dolphus can't even sit up straight in his saddle.

However, there is more to Dolphus Raymond and the children learn this during the trial.

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