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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee
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What is ironic about the last gossipy words of the ladies of the missionary group since the family has just heard of Tom's death?

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I never really thought about it, but this last section is pretty clever.  It's like changing radio stations and then linking what one station is saying and tying it into the next phrase of the next section.  Sometimes that can be pretty funny.  The conversations blend into each other in...

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I never really thought about it, but this last section is pretty clever.  It's like changing radio stations and then linking what one station is saying and tying it into the next phrase of the next section.  Sometimes that can be pretty funny.  The conversations blend into each other in the last couple of paragraphs. 

"Yes, Mrs. Perkins, that J. Grimes Everett is a martyred saint, he...needed to get married so they ran...to the beauty parlor every Saturday afternoon...soon as the sun goes down.  He goes to bed with the...chickens, a crate full of sick chickens, Fred says that's what started it all."

It's ironic because the women were praising Everett for doing exactly the type of work that Atticus is doing, yet they criticize Atticus right there in his own house.  The comical aspect of this paragraph is that it begins with one person speaking of Everett, and then the training words of other conversations make it sound like he ran off with a woman (scandalous) and then sleeps with chickens (crazy).  So the "saint" Everett sounds like the quack he probably is--and Harper Lee is getting in her last words to remind the reader who the true hero is in this story:  Atticus Finch.

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There aren't very many words of the gossipy ladies recorded after Scout and Alexandria find out about Tom's death, but the one that stands out the most is "J. Grimes Everett is a martyred saint."  They are continuing their discussion of the most glorious and wonderful (in their eyes) J. Grimes Everett who is doing all of that wonderful work with the Mruna people.  But, right at the end, they describe him as a martyr.  A martyr is someone who dies in the name of a cause, who is brutally murdered for that cause, and who is innocent of any crime.  So, the irony here is that these ladies find Everett-a man never accused of any crime, never put into a situation like Tom's-a martyr, when Tom, a man who was unjustly convicted of a crime, which did eventually lead to his brutal murder, is the true martyr.  Tom was a martyr, slaughtered in the name of racism, prejudice and fear.  So the irony here is that the ladies attach this very heavy and serious title of martyr to Everett, when a member of their own community had just been truly, brutally murdered.  They can't see the situation for what it really is, and their adoration of Everett seems petty and meaningless in light of the recent news of Tom's death.

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