To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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Why is Mr. Raymond willing to let the children in on his secret inTo Kill a Mockingbird?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The citizens of Maycomb view Dolphus Raymond with contempt because of his taboo relations with African Americans. Dolphus has several biracial children and openly associates with black people on a daily basis. At the beginning of chapter 20, Dolphus Raymond offers Dill a drink of Coca-Cola from his paper bag, which surprises both children. Dolphus explains to Scout and Dill that he feigns alcoholism so that folks in Maycomb "can latch onto a reason," which helps the prejudiced citizens understand why he associates with African Americans. Dolphus does not want to cause conflict throughout the community and finds it best to feign alcoholism so that people do not question or provoke him because of his unorthodox lifestyle. Dolphus understands that Scout and Dill are innocent children who aren't prejudiced and do not share the community's racist ideology. He trusts that they will not reveal his secret, because they share similar views towards black people. Given the fact that Dill is upset at the way Mr. Gilmer addresses Tom and that Scout's father is representing a black man, Dolphus feels confident that they will keep his secret.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Mr. Raymond tells Scout and Jem that it is Coca-cola and not whiskey in his paper bag and he is not really drunk all the time because he knows that they are not racist and they will understand.

Mr. Raymond is unlike most people in Maycomb because he is not a racist.  Since people have a hard time believing he could love a Negro wife and half-breed children, he lets the town believe he is drunk.  Mr. Raymond recognizes that children understand that people are people, no matter their race.  Since Scout and Jem are Atticus’s children, and Atticus is defending a Negro, Mr. Raymond knows that they are not racist.

Jem thinks, as most people do, that it is whiskey and not Coca-cola in the Coca-cola bottle. 

"Always does. He likes 'em better'n he likes us, I reckon. Lives by himself way down near the county line. He's got a colored woman and all sorts of mixed chillun. Show you some of 'em if we see 'em." (ch 16)

When the children actually talk to Raymond, he tells them that his secret isn’t that he’s drinking—it’s actually that he isn’t drinking.  Raymond explains why he lets people think this.

It helps folks if they can latch onto a reason .... folks can say Dolphus Raymond's in the clutches of whiskey- that's why he won't change his ways. (ch 17)

In the end, the children realize that Mr. Raymond has found a way to co-exist with the racism of Maycomb, and a clever way to get people to leave him alone.

Mr. Raymond gives us a glimpse of another side of Maycomb.  Not everyone thinks the same way, and there are some people besides Atticus that prefer the company of good people to choosing company based on skin color.

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