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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, what is the significance of the statement, "but sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of—oh, of your father"?

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In Chapter 5, Miss Maudie is having a conversation with Scout regarding Boo Radley's past and family background. Miss Maudie explains to Scout that Mr. Radley was a very strict individual, and was a "foot-washing Baptist" (Lee 59). Maudie tells Scout that "foot-washing Baptists" believe that women are a sin by nature and that anything that people take pleasure in is considered a sin. Maudie also tells Scout that Mr. Radley took the Bible literally. She attempts to use the following analogy to explain to Scout that people can use the Bible to support their negative beliefs by saying, "but sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of---oh, of your father" (Lee 60). Scout is too young and naive to understand Maudie's analogy. Maudie is trying to convey that fact that some people misinterpret the Bible and use the scriptures to support their intolerant and ignorant beliefs. In Mr. Radley's case, he interpreted the Bible literally to keep Boo Radley inside of the house and away from the public. His decision to shelter his son negatively affected Boo Radley's life, similar to the way alcohol can negatively affect a person's well-being.

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