Why does Scout get in a "fight" with Cecil Jacobs at school? What about the fight makes Scout feel noble? 

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At the beginning of chapter 9, Cecil Jacobs announces to the entire playground that "Scout Finch's daddy defended niggers." Despite not understanding the racial slur, Scout is offended and demands that Cecil Jacobs take back his derogatory comment. That night, Scout asks her father to explain Cecil Jacobs's comment, and Atticus proceeds to elaborate on his upcoming case. Atticus explains to his daughter that he will be defending a black man named Tom Robinson and mentions that the majority of the prejudiced citizens in town disagree with his decision to defend Tom. Atticus also explains to Scout that he has a moral obligation to defend Tom. Atticus then encourages Scout to hold her head high and keep her fists down whenever someone attempts to provoke her.

The next day at school, Scout approaches Cecil Jacobs and asks him if he is going to take back his comments about Atticus. Cecil Jacobs responds by telling Scout,

You gotta make me first! . . . My folks said your daddy was a disgrace an‘ that nigger oughta hang from the water-tank! (Lee, 79).

Instead of physically retaliating, Scout exercises self-control and walks away without fighting Cecil, which makes her feel noble. After Scout walks away, she mentions,

Somehow, if I fought Cecil I would let Atticus down. Atticus so rarely asked Jem and me to do something for him, I could take being called a coward for him. I felt extremely noble for having remembered, and remained noble for three weeks (Lee, 79).

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This is a good question. Hard times await Scout in school. The reason for this is because some children in school are making fun of Scout by saying that Atticus defends "niggers." In other words, the racism of Maycomb comes out, and it is affecting Scout at school. 

So when Scout faces Cecil, and she wants Cecil to take it back, Cecil does not. In fact, Cecil provoke her to a fight. At this point, Scout resists, even though she had her fists clenched. Here is how Scout describes the situation: 

I drew a bead on him, remembered what Atticus had said, then dropped my fists and walked away, “Scout’s a cow-ward!” ringing in my ears. It was the first time I ever walked away from a fight.

Scout was able to do this, because she remembered the promise that she made with Atticus. Furthermore, she remembered that Atticus asked Jem and her to do so little that she did not want to let him down. When she walked away, she felt noble. Here is what she says:

Somehow, if I fought Cecil I would let Atticus down. Atticus so rarely asked Jem and me to do something for him, I could take being called a coward for him. I felt extremely noble for having remembered, and remained noble for three weeks. Then Christmas came and disaster struck.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
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