To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis

Harper Lee

Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis

This chapter opens with a fight between Scout and her classmate Cecil Jacobs, who announces to the entire school that Atticus "defend[s] niggers." Scout takes offense to this and shouts at him to take it back, but refrains from getting into a physical fight for fear of being punished. Atticus has to tell her not to use the word "nigger" because it's "common," meaning that the only people who say it are people who don't know any better. Thereafter, Scout uses the word Negro, instead, and asks Atticus if all lawyers defend African American people. He explains to her that it's his job to defend Tom and that, if he succumbed to peer pressure and refused to defend Tom, like the other citizens of Maycomb want him to, he wouldn't be able to hold up his head in town. He intends to defend Tom even though he knows he won't win.

Christmas comes, and, with it, Uncle Jack, Atticus's brother, who stays with them for a week. He likes to make Scout laugh, but is also a very serious man—a doctor—who removes her splinters and warns her not to swear. On Christmas morning, Jem and Scout play with the air rifles Atticus bought them, but aren't allowed to bring the rifles with them when they go see Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Alexandra, Atticus's sister, at Finch's Landing. Aunt Alexandra is so unlike Atticus in every way that Jem thinks she was switched at birth and is actually a Crawford. Her son, Francis, is the most boring kid alive, according to Scout. He asked for a bowtie for Christmas. What's worse, he says bad things about Atticus defending Tom, which leads Scout to punch him in the face.

Uncle Jack punishes Scout for fighting with Francis. Later, when they return to Maycomb, Scout tells him that he was unfair to her and explains why she punched Francis, but asks him not to tell Atticus, because she doesn't want to disappoint her father. Still later, Scout overhears Uncle Jack and Atticus talking. Uncle Jack says he doesn't want to have children. Atticus says Scout's use of bad language is just a phase. He knows that she tries to obey him, and he's sorry that she's going to have to deal with the ugliness of the trial soon. He knows that she's listening, but wants her to hear this so that later she'll understand.

Allusion

General Hood (1831 - 1879). John Bell Hood, a brilliant Confederate general whose reputation was destroyed by his defeats in the Atlanta Campaign and the Franklin-Nashville Campaign. According to Scout, her cousin, Ike Finch, the last living Confederate veteran of the Civil War in Maycomb, has a beard like General Hood's, which grows several inches long and juts powerfully out from his chin. That so many of Scout's allusions refer to the Civil War and Confederate generals serves as a potent reminder of the South's dark history.

House of Commons. Traditionally, this refers to the lower house of the British Parliament, but may, in other contexts, refer to the equivalent house of the Canadian or Irish parliaments. Uncle Jack alludes to it while trying to answer Scout's question asking what a "whore-lady" is. It's unclear exactly how the two things are related.

Lord Melbourne (1779 - 1848). A Whig politician who served as the British Prime Minister from 1835 to 1841. He was involved in a couple sex scandals, one involving his wife, who had an affair with Lord Byron, and another involving his friend, the author Caroline Norton. It's unclear how exactly Lord Melbourne relates to what Scout and Jack were talking about before.

The Missouri Compromise. This United States federal statute was devised by Henry Clay and illegalized slavery in Louisiana Purchase territories north of the 36°30′ parallel, except within the state of Missouri. According to Cousin Ike, the Missouri Compromise marked the beginning of the end for the antebellum South, whose way of life was destroyed when they could no longer rely on slave labor.

Stonewall Jackson (1824 - 1963). Sometimes referred to as Ol' Blue Light by his men, Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson was a Confederate general who earned his nickname at the First Battle of Bull Run, where he and his brigade of Virginians stood their ground against a Union attack. Cousin Ike alludes to him when discussing the Civil War with Scout and Jem.

Conflict

Once again, the primary conflicts in this chapter involve Scout. This time, her conflicts are with men, not women, and therefore have a different feel and character. In this chapter, Scout actively attempts to hold back and keep out of trouble, out of respect for Atticus, but finds this difficult.

Scout vs. Cecil Jacobs. This chapter opens with Scout shouting at Cecil to take back the mean things that he's said about Atticus. Remarkably, Scout is able to refrain from getting into a physical fight this time, but only because she has already spoken to Atticus and he has explained to her that he has a moral duty to defend Tom Robinson. Her cousin Francis, however, doesn't get off so easily.

Scout vs. Francis. Like Cecil Jacobs, Francis speaks ill of Atticus because he's defending Tom Robinson. However, because he's related to Scout and should know better than to speak that way about relatives, Francis doesn't get off as easy as Cecil did. Scout patiently tortures him for a little while, trapping him in the kitchen and shouting at him occasionally before finally punching him in the face. She doesn't explain why she does this to Aunt Alexandra, and she ends up being punished by Uncle Jack.

Scout vs. Uncle Jack. Though Scout loves Uncle Jack, they come into conflict because he doesn't want her using swear words or bad language. When he hears that Scout has been fighting with Francis, he punishes her without first waiting to hear her side of the story. Once he does hear it, though, he apologizes for being cross with her, later telling Atticus that he doesn't want any children of his own, because he doesn't understand them.

Idiom

An example of an idiom would be "to draw a bead on someone," which Scout uses when she has a fight with Francis. Generally, the phrase refers to aiming a gun (drawing a bead on your target), but in this context refers to Scout keeping an eye on Cecil Jacobs, whom she decides not to fight.

Themes

Heritage. In this chapter, Scout relates the particulars of her family's heritage, including the architecture of Simon Finch's house, which is exceptionally peculiar (his daughters all slept in one bedroom, the staircase to which could only be accessed through his master bedroom). Scout tells us this not to impress upon the reader how old and wealthy her family was, but to describe Finch's Landing, a new setting that the reader has never seen before. Thus, the long expositional passages about the house and her ancestors are less a product of Scout's interest in her heritage than they are of Lee's need to quickly orient the reader in a new setting.