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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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How does Scout react to Francis's taunts in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

Scout's altercation with her cousin Francis in chapter nine of To Kill a Mockingbird is a vital part of the plot's maturation.

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Scout's altercation with her cousin Francis in chapter nine of To Kill a Mockingbird is a vital part of the plot's maturation.

When the Finches go to visit their relatives at Finch's Landing, Francis cruelly spouts all of the judgements he has heard about Scout and her father from...

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Aunt Alexandra. First, he taunts her for her friendship with Dill, who Aunt Alexandra feels is far too inferior to associate with a Finch.

Scout, who has been instructed by Atticus to avoid fighting, holds her head high against Francis's criticism of Dill. When Francis doesn't get the reaction he wants, he resorts to calling Atticus a "nigger-lover" for defending Tom Robinson.

This is too much for Scout, who responds by punching him in the mouth so hard that she cuts her knuckles on his front teeth.

This altercation serves to further cement Aunt Alexandra's views on Atticus and his children. It also deepens the complexities of Scout's troubles as she evolves from having typical schoolyard problems to seeing the much deeper conflicts of her racially prejudiced town—and the real dangers her father faces because of his stand for Tom Robinson.

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In Chapter 9 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout's cousin Francis taunts her by first reciting what her Aunt Alexandra, his grandmother, says about her keeping company with Dill. Evidently, Aunt Alexandra sees Dill as a homeless waif and thinks of Atticus as letting Scout "run around with stray dogs." Francis further taunts Scout by calling her father a "nigger-lover" for defending Tom Robinson and saying that Atticus is "ruinin' the family." Though Scout has been warned by Atticus not to get into any more fights, especially over ridicule about his defense of Robinson, Scout responds to these taunts in her typical violent fashion.At first, Scout responds by grabbing Francis by the collar and demanding he take back the evil things he has said. But when Francis breaks free, still continuing with his taunts, and hides himself in the kitchen, Scout decides to wait patiently for him to emerge. Each time he emerges, she commands him to take it back but to no avail. Finally, he taunts her one last time by calling Atticus a "nigger-lover," and Scout responds by socking him in the mouth, splitting her "knuckle on the bone on his front teeth." She is about to hit him again when her Uncle Jack stops her.Later, when Scout finally gets her chance to explain why she hit Francis, Uncle Jack is equally aghast at the things Francis said, but Scout begs Uncle Jack not to confront Aunt Alexandra about the issue because Scout does not want Atticus to learn about the reason why she was fighting.

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What happens when Scout reacts to Francis's taunts in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Scout fights with Francis and Uncle Jack spanks her.

Before visiting her family at Christmas, Scout has had many fights with classmates about her father defending a black man.  Atticus tells her she needs to keep her head on straight, and promise to spank her for fighting, but he never has.

Frances and Scout do not get along even before the Robinson case.

He was a year older than I, and I avoided him on principle: he enjoyed everything I disapproved of, and disliked my ingenuous diversions. (ch 9)

Scout and Uncle Jack hit it off on the wrong foot because she is in a swearing phase.  He takes her aside and asks her if she likes swear words (which she uses because she hopes Attius will think she picked them up at school and not make her go).  Scout tells him she does.

Well I don't," said Uncle Jack, "not unless there's extreme provocation connected with 'em. I'll be here a week, and I don't want to hear any words like that while I'm here. Scout, you'll get in trouble if you go around saying things like that. (ch 9)

Unfortunately, provocation is not far off.  Francis does not approve of Atticus defending a black man.  He also does not like Scout much.  When he insults her because of her father, she feels provoked and attacks him.  He tells on her to Uncle Jack, and Uncle Jack spanks her. 

Uncle Jack does not understand why Scout is mad at him.  He tells her that he warned her.  She explains that he is not being fair, because he did not listen to her side of the story.  Uncle Jack gets a lesson in fairness, and in children.  He realizes things are not always what they seem.

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