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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Jem tells Scout and Dill about Dolphus Raymond's backstory. This colorful character is just one of Maycomb's many resident eccentrics. Along with others such as Boo Radley and Mrs. Dubose, he's an endless source of fascination for the children. Dolphus is an eccentric character because, as Jem explains, despite being a white man hailing from a respectable old family, he spends most of his time among the town's African American community. That may not strike us as particularly eccentric in our more enlightened age, but in such a deeply segregated society it's considered almost insane.

But Jem doesn't know the half of it. Although Dolphus appears to drink alcohol out of a paper bag, it's all just an act. He's not really an alcoholic at all; he just behaves that way to account for what the townsfolk of Maycomb regard as his eccentric behavior. It says a lot about the town and its values that a white man has to pretend to be a drunk in order to mix with people of a different race.

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When Scout, Jem and Dill all get together and go into town to see the scene at the courthouse, they arrive when everyone is out having lunch on the town square. They see Mr. Dolphus Raymond drinking out of a paper bag in one corner of the square and Jem explains what is going on.

He explains that Dolph, who is white, lives among the black community in Maycomb and that he has a black woman as a girlfriend, with whom he has had a number of children. He tells the story about his first marriage not happening because the bride-to-be killed herself prior to the wedding. 

Jem explains that Mr. Raymond is well-off and came from a "real old family," which means a respected white family in Maycomb. He also notes that he takes very good care of his children and seems to be a well-meaning man even though the town looks down on him. He points out that it is hard for the children being "mixed" and that Dolph has sent a couple of them up north where folks don't seem to mind so much.

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