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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee
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What makes one a Mennonite according to Jem in Chapter 16?

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In chapter 16, the children watch as a wagonloads full of families arrive into town to witness the Tom Robinson trial. As the child stand outside and watch the citizens from the southern part of Maycomb County arrive in a steady stream, Jem comments on a group of Mennonites. Jem then demonstrates his knowledge by informing Dill that Mennonites don't have any buttons and live deep in the woods. Jem also mentions that the Mennonites do most of their trading across the river and rarely come into the town of Maycomb. According to Scout, Dill was interested in Jem's explanation and Jem proceeded to tell him that all the Mennonites have blue eyes and are prohibited from shaving after marriage. Jem does not know that exact reason why Mennonite men do not shave their beards and simply tells DIll that the Mennonite women like to be tickled by their husbands' beards.

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In Chapter 16 of To Kill a Mockingbird Jem and Dill Harris are hanging out on a street in Maycomb.  There, they see a wagonload of ladies being driven by a man.  Jem explains to Dill that these people are Mennonites.  He says that you can tell this in a few ways.

  • He says that they are Mennonites because they do not have buttons.
  • He says that all of them have blue eyes
  • He says that the men are required to wear beards, at least after they're married.

Jem also explains that the Mennonites all live deep in the woods and don't usually come to Maycomb.

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In chapter 16, Jem, Dill and Scout are watching people pass in front of their house on the way to the courthouse. A "wagonload of ladies" goes by in plain dress, wearing bonnets and long sleeves. Jem confidently explains that these are Mennonites, that they "don't have buttons," that they all have blue eyes and the men are forbidden to shave after marriage.

This scene comes after the children have faced down the "mob" and are in a kind of heightened state. Jem's knowing explanation is perhaps a reflection of this new confidence and sense of maturity, particularly his somewhat naughty observation that the Mennonite women like to be tickled by their husband's beards. It is also hilariously naive, a quality that stands in contrast the the serious nature of the trial these people have come to town to witness.

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A couple of pages into chapter 16, Jem explains Mennonites to Dill.  People are making their way from the southern part of the county to the courthouse for the big trial of Tom Robinson.  As people walked by slowly, Jem explained them all to Dill.  Jem described the Mennonites:

"A bearded man in a wool hat drove them. 'Yonder's some Menonites,' Jem said to Dill. 'They don't have buttons.' They lived deep in the woods, did most of their trading across the river, and rarely came to Maycomb. Dill was interested. 'They've all got blue eyes,' Jem explained, 'and the men can't shave after they marry.  Their wives like for 'em to tickle 'em with their beards.'"

 

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