Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Why does Scout have a problem with Miss Gates in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Students in Scout's class are asked to bring a newspaper article as part of a Current Events assignment. Cecil Jacobs brings an article that contains information about Adolf Hitler and how, according to Cecil, he "has been after the Jews and he's puttin' 'em in prisons and he's taking away all their property." When a student questions how Hitler is able to do this, Miss Gates begins a lesson on democracy with the class. Scout provides a definition of democracy when she says, "Equal rights for all, special privileges for none." Miss Gates approves this definition and goes on to say that the story of the Jews is, "one of the most terrible stories in history."

Scout struggles with the lesson provided by Miss Gates. The night of Tom Robinson's trial, Scout overhears a conversation between Miss Gates and Miss Crawford. Miss Gates feels that African American citizens need to learn their lesson and that they expect too much. Scout has difficulty with Miss Gates because she notices the contradiction between what Miss Gates practices and what she preaches. She questions how Miss Gates can be prejudiced at home while at the same time condemning in persecution elsewhere.

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Miss Gates is Scout's third grade teacher. During a current events activity, Cecil Jacobs discusses how Hitler is persecuting the Jews who live in Europe. Miss Gates then explains to her class the difference between a democracy and dictatorship. She says Hitler runs the government and makes the audacious claim that individuals in America don't believe in persecuting people. Scout recognizes Miss Gates' hypocrisy and talks to her brother about it. Scout tells Jem that she overheard Miss Gates make prejudiced comments about the African American community of Maycomb when she was leaving Tom's trial. Scout wonders how Miss Gates can hate and ridicule Hitler, then turn around and discriminate against African Americans. Scout has a problem with Miss Gates's hypocritical attitude.

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