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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Mr. Dolphus Raymond once had a fiancée, but she killed herself. How and why has this happened? 

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The fiancée of Mr. Dolphus Raymond left her wedding rehearsal after it was over, went upstairs and killed herself by using a shotgun that was pointed at her head, having pulled the trigger with her toes. Rumor has it that she was humiliated and horrified at learning that her fiancé had a "colored woman" that he hoped to keep while he was also married.

In Chapter 16, people from the county as well as the town flock to the square outside the courthouse in order to attend the trial of a Negro accused of raping a white woman. In the midst of this activity of all types of people that resembles what Miss Maudie calls a "Roman carnival," one of the more curious and complex characters there is Mr. Raymond Dolphus. Born into a prestigious family in Maycomb, Mr. Dolphus is an anomaly because he has left his family home and lives in the "colored area with his woman and mixed children, two of which he has supposedly sent up North. Also, he has purportedly been a drunkard since the suicide of his fiancée, and he is often seen going around with a drink enclosed in a paper bag, but he is really only drinking Coca-Cola. He pretends to be a drunk so that people can reconcile his behavior with his personal "weakness," rather than his repulsion for racial bias and cruelty.

Harper Lee uses the tableau of the people around the town square as a means of presenting the attitudes of those who live in Maycomb county. The social pariah of Dolphus Raymond and his history points to how firmly entrenched the "usual disease," as Atticus terms it, is. After learning that his fiancée was so "humiliated" and emotionally devastated by his personal association with blacks that she felt she had no choice but to brutally end her life, Mr. Dolphus leaves white society and tries to keep anyone else from hating him so much that they would seek violence as an answer. He feigns being a drunkard so that they can reconcile his own behavior. In this way they believe, "He can't help himself, that's why he lives the way he does."

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