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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Atticus shows prejudice in his discussion of women on juries. What stereotypes does he have of women?

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In Chapter 23 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus and Jem have a discussion after the trial about what occurred with the jury.  When Jem asks Atticus why people picked for the jury "all come from out in the woods," Atticus is pleased at Jem's observation.  He explains that women are not allowed to serve on juries in Alabama (since this is the 1930s and that was the law), and that many of the Maycomb citizenry interviewed as jurors were excused.  When Scout indignantly asks why women cannot be on a jury, Atticus facetiously adds,

"... I guess it's to protect our frail ladies from sordid cases like Tom's.  Besides...I doubt if we'd ever get a complete case tried--the ladies'd be interrupting to ask questions."

While there may be a touch of male chauvinism--after all, he is a product of his times--present in this statement, Atticus's intention in mere humor, here, for he has the greatest of respect for Calpurnia and Miss Maudie, especially.  His discussion with the children is one that enlightens them to the reality of their times:  They live in a culture in which the black man is not on the same socio-economic level with the white man.  Because of this situation, which he has earlier termed "Maycomb's disease," Atticus tells Jem with irony that the "stout Maycomb citizens "aren't interested" in getting involved with a case that shakes their complacency with the social milieu in which they live; also, they are afraid to get involved because with their verdict they could lose business or political advantage or social position in the town when their vote became known.  This discussion with his children indicates Atticus's recognition of their growing maturity.


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