Why is Scout puzzled by Miss Gates' disapproval of Hitler in chapter 26 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Scout is puzzled because, like most people in town, Miss Gates is a racist and white supremacist. Yet here she is, waxing eloquent about the terrible plight of Jews in Nazi Germany. Miss Gates is so blinded by prejudice that she's unable to see the irony of this. And it...

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Scout is puzzled because, like most people in town, Miss Gates is a racist and white supremacist. Yet here she is, waxing eloquent about the terrible plight of Jews in Nazi Germany. Miss Gates is so blinded by prejudice that she's unable to see the irony of this. And it says a lot about her, not to mention Scout's acute powers of observation, that a young girl is able to pick up on the discrepancy between Miss Gates's sympathy for the Jews and her lack of concern over Tom Robinson, who's no less a victim of state-sanctioned prejudice.

Scout stands apart from virtually all the adults in Maycomb in that she can draw parallels between what's happening in Nazi Germany and the kind of thing that takes place each and every day in her hometown. She understands, even if Miss Gates doesn't, that hate is hate, wherever it rears its ugly, misshapen head.

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Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird features the coming of age of Scout Finch. The moment in question helps to show that Scout's understanding of the world is emerging as she discovers hypocrisy among adults. Although this little girl might not know what the word hypocrisy means, the scene when Scout listens to Miss Gates bury herself in hypocritical and prejudiced speech illustrates that even little children know error when they hear it. For example, Scout connects Miss Gates's speech about Hitler and Jews with the situation she experienced just a couple of months earlier as she witnessed deep, prejudiced feelings from Miss Gates regarding the Tom Robinson case. In an effort to understand this paradox, Scout verbalizes her thoughts to Jem as follows:

"Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home—" (247)

Scout identifies Miss Gates as a hypocrite, but she doesn't know how to categorize the issue because she likely doesn't know that word. Not only that, and at the very heart of the matter, Scout doesn't understand prejudices, bigotry, or hypocrisy because of her innocence and inexperience with the adult world. She's smart enough to call a foul, but she doesn't quite understand why the foul exists in the first place. This is why Scout is so puzzled by her teacher's hateful words on the steps of the courthouse on the night of the trial compared to her sympathetic words for Jews in the classroom. Scout simply doesn't understand hypocrisy or the other issues tied to it. 

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Scout is puzzled by Miss Gates' disapproval toward Hitler because of Miss Gates’ outspoken prejudices against Tom Robinson. In chapter twenty-six, Miss Gates tries to explain the reason that Hitler persecutes the Jews:

‘That’s the difference between America and Germany. We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship. Dictator-ship,’ she said. ‘Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced. Pre-ju-dice,’ she enunciated carefully. ‘There are no better people in the world that the Jews, and why Hitler doesn’t think so is a mystery to me.’

Miss Gates statement above puzzles Scout because, during the Tom Robinson’s trial, she saw how prejudice people were in Maycomb; she saw this with the conviction of Tom Robinson. Scout doesn't understand how Miss Gates can feel sympathy toward the persecution of the Jews but then feel nothing toward Tom Robinson who was convicted of rape because of his race.

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