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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Why does Scout forget what Atticus told her about fighting in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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At the beginning of Chapter 9, Cecil Jacobs makes inappropriate comments about Atticus defending a black man on the playground at school. Although Scout does not understand the term "nigger-lover," she feels offended and thinks about fighting him. Later that night, Atticus encourages her to control her temper and keep her fists down. The next day when Scout encounters Cecil Jacobs on the playground, she follows Atticus' advice and walks away. Scout then mentions,

"I felt extremely noble for having remembered, and remained noble for three weeks. Then Christmas came and disaster struck" (Lee 49).

Later on in the chapter, Scout's family gets together to celebrate Christmas. Scout's cousin, Francis Hancock, criticizes Atticus by telling her:

"Grandma says it's bad enough he lets you all run wild, but now he's turned out a nigger-lover we'll never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb again. He's ruinin' the family, that's what he's doin'" (Lee 52).

Scout tries her best to control her anger but cannot help herself. When she gets a chance, Scout punches Francis in the teeth. Scout later explains to Uncle Jack that her actions were justified because Francis provoked her enough "to knock his block off" (Lee 54).

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Scout did her very best not to let Atticus down, but once  the sniveling, bratty, spoiled Francis referred to her father as a "nigger-lover", she lost her temper and went after him.  Her uncle whipped her for it, but afterward, when Scout had a chance to tell her side of the story, Uncle Jack was angered and promised to punish Francis immediately.  However, Scout asked him to let it go; it was important to her that Atticus not know that she had let him down by fighting with Francis.  He had warned her that people were going to say ugly things as the trial date approached, and that she was not to fight, no matter how angry she might feel.

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