Why doesn't Scout fight Cecil in Chapter Nine of To Kill a Mockingbird?  

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 9, Cecil Jacobs makes several derogatory remarks on the playground about Atticus, which infuriate Scout even though she doesn't understand the meaning of Cecil's insults. Later that night, Scout asks her father what Cecil Jacobs meant by saying he "defended niggers." Atticus proceeds to explain that he will be defending a black man named Tom Robinson despite the community's negative opinions of this decision. Atticus then encourages Scout not to retaliate when others say negative things about him. Atticus tells Scout,

"You might hear some ugly talk about it at school, but do one thing for me if you will: you just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don’t you let ‘em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change . . . it’s a good one, even if it does resist learning." (Lee, 78)

The next day on the playground, Scout approaches Cecil Jacobs and asks if he is going to take back what he said about Atticus. When Cecil Jacobs responds by telling Scout that his parents think Atticus is a disgrace and that Tom Robinson should hang from a water-tank, Scout remembers her father's advice and walks away. Scout elaborates on the reason she chose to walk away from Cecil Jacobs by saying,

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. (Lee, 79)

Essentially, Scout walks away from Cecil Jacobs and does not physically retaliate because she does not want to let her father down.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout does not fight Cecil because Atticus has told her to refrain from fighting. Cecil has repeatedly tried to provoke her by taunting her about the fact that her father is defending a black man, Tom Robinson. Cecil tells Scout his father said that Tom should hang for the alleged crime. This incident is only a hint of the difficulties Scout and Jem will face as Atticus takes on this difficult case. Atticus, in fact, warns Scout of this in the chapter, urging her to keep her cool and avoid fighting whenever possible. When Scout is tempted to fight Cecil, she remembers his words, and resolves to obey him, even if it means being called a coward. She does not want to let her father down. Unfortunately, she abandons her promise to her father when her cousin Francis also mocks Atticus in the same chapter. She punches the boy in the mouth, splitting his lip.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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