To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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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...

(The entire section is 1,179 words.)