Why is Scout puzzled by Miss Gates' disapproval of Hitler?

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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...

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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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Scout is confused because Miss Gates has a rule for one group of people, the Jews, and follows another rule for a different group of people, African-Americans.

In comparing Germany and the U.S., Miss Gates clearly tells the class that:

Over here we don't believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced. There are no better people in the world than the Jews, and why Hitler doesn't think so is a mystery to me" (Ch. 26).

Miss Gates obviously has no prejudice against the Jews, and has trouble understanding why anyone would. Yet Scout overhears Miss Gates tell Miss Crawford that the blacks are "getting way above themselves," and she's worried that they'll begin to start marrying whites. This is the same type of fear that Hitler advanced in his own speeches, and Scout is rightly perplexed as to why Miss Gates can have two very different views.

This chapter is yet another illustration of the hypocrisy and racism that exist within Maycomb, and we are reminded of how silly some of the arbitrary rules are that grown-ups have constructed when we see those rules through the eyes of Scout, who is too young to really understand the complexity of prejudice.

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In chapter 26 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout is now in the third grade. Her teacher, Miss Gates, wants the children to start talking about current events. When Cecil Jacobs talk about Hitler and what he is doing to the Jews, Miss Gates shows her disgust for Hitler.

"That's the difference between America and Germany. We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship...over here we don't believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced... There are no better people in the world than the Jews, and why Hitler doesn't think so is a mystery to me."

Scout is having a hard time trying to understand Miss Gates, and it is bothering her when she gets home. She tries to ask Atticus about it, but decides to ask Jem, since he is better at the school stuff. She tells him that Miss Gates hates Hitler and what he is doing to the Jews, and Jem wants to know what is wrong with that.

"Well, coming out of the courthouse that night Miss Gates was-she was goin' down the steps in front of us, you musta not seen her- she was talking with Miss Stephanie Crawford. I heard her say it's time somebody taught 'em a lesson, they were gettin' way above themselves, an' the next thing they think they can do is marry us. Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home-"

Scout can see how Miss Gates is being a hypocrite. Miss Gates thinks it is horrible what Hitler is doing, yet she is basically doing the same thing right here at home, feeling the way she does about black people. This is the first time we see Scout really show her maturity. Atticus has raised Jem and Scout to be decent people, and Scout is upset when she sees an injustice being done right under her nose.

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Scout is puzzled because Miss Gates doesn't disapprove of the way black people are treated because of their race, but she disapproves of how the Nazi's discriminate against the Jews because of their religion. Its one of many contradictions Scout finds when dealing with grownups and racism. Especially since Miss Gates complains about Black's getting "above themselves." Miss Gates, like most, is a hypocrite

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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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Following Miss Gates' staunch defense of the German Jews who are being persecuted by Adolf Hitler, Scout questioned Atticus about her teacher's beliefs. Scout understood why Hitler's actions were wrong, and Atticus defended Miss Gates' stand. But Scout had not forgotten a conversation she had overheard on the courthouse steps between Miss Gates and Miss Stephanie Crawford. Miss Gates made some uncomplimentary remarks about black people and how

"... it's time somebody taught 'em a lesson, they were gettin' way above themselves, an' the next thing they think they can do is marry us."

Scout didn't understand how her teacher could hate Hitler so much

"... and then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home--"

Scout understood the hypocrisy of the situation, even if she did not understand why an educated person like Miss Gates felt the way she did. 

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Hitler’s persecution of the Jews is criticized by Miss Gates in the classroom. However,  Scout has just witnessed the unjust persecution of African Americans in Maycomb through the unjust nature of Tom Robinson’s trial. Additionally, Scout overheard Miss Gates making a derogatory statement about the African Americans of Maycomb outside of the courthouse.  Scout is confused by the hypocrisy she is witnessing. As readers we see that Miss Gates is not “practicing what she preaches.” Scout is left wondering how adults in Maycomb can be judgmental of poor human behavior in other parts of the world and not notice there own poor behavior to their own neighbors.

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