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To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 1 - 6 
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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 1 - 6
DWill wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
The chapter ends with Jem completing a short career as a stylite.

Not the first time you've sent me to the Google dictionary! Same root as stylus, maybe?


A stylite is a hermit who sits on a pillar, a moderately well known pastime in the ancient world.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stylite

A stylus is something I mainly associate with vinyl records. Apparently the connection with pillars is a mistake. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stylus#Etymology
Quote:
Atticus kept us in fits that evening, gravely reading columns of print about a man
who sat on a flagpole for no discernible reason, which was reason enough for Jem
to spend the following Saturday aloft in the treehouse. Jem sat from after
breakfast until sunset and would have remained overnight had not Atticus severed
his supply lines. I had spent most of the day climbing up and down, running
errands for him, providing him with literature, nourishment and water, and was
carrying him blankets for the night when Atticus said if I paid no attention to him,
Jem would come down. Atticus was right.


Interesting how having such a parent exposes the children to ideas that would never have occurred to them.


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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 1 - 6
Chapter Four
A remarkable aside from Scout's complaints about the boredom of school is her incidental remark that "my father had served for years in the state legislature, elected each time
without opposition, innocent of the adjustments my teachers thought essential to
the development of Good Citizenship". Was Atticus really a lawmaker as well as a lawyer?

The weird finding of Wrigley’s Double Mint chewing gum in the Radley tree on the way home from school expands in mystery as the second wrapper contains old pennies with Indian heads dating from 1900. These naturally have their own Wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Head_cent

Surprisingly, the wiki entry fails to mention Jem’s assertion that these coins are “real strong magic, they make you have good luck. Not like fried chicken when you’re not lookin‘ for it, but things like long life ’n‘ good health, ’n‘ passin’ six-weeks tests…”

Summer holidays are celebrated with the arrival of Dill from Mississippi. An earlier chapter had explained that their friend Dill was “a pocket Merlin, whose head teemed with eccentric plans, strange longings, and quaint fancies.”

The imagination of inventing plays is an astounding thing for these rural kids, followed by smelling death and rolling in a tire. This is the sort of insane story for children who think they will live forever and have not yet experienced the caution bred by physical injury: “by pushing the tire down the sidewalk with all the force in his body. Ground, sky and houses melted into a mad palette, my ears throbbed, I was suffocating. I could not put out my hands to stop, they were wedged between my chest and knees. I could only hope that Jem would outrun the tire and me, or that I would be stopped by a bump in the sidewalk. I heard him behind me, chasing and shouting. The tire bumped on gravel, skeetered across the road, crashed into a barrier and popped me like a cork onto pavement. Dizzy and nauseated, I lay on the cement and shook my head still, pounded my ears to silence, and heard Jem’s voice: “Scout, get away from there, come on!”

The imaginative fun pauses for mid morning lemonade, then culminates with the game of Boo Radley, who for all they know is stuffed up a chimney: “As the summer progressed, so did our game. We polished and perfected it, added dialogue and plot until we had manufactured a small play upon which we rang changes every day.” The game must be kept secret, which becomes a problem when Atticus takes an interest.


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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 1 - 6
Robert Tulip wrote:
A stylite is a hermit who sits on a pillar, a moderately well known pastime in the ancient world.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stylite
Robin Lane Fox had quite a bit of discussion about the Stylites in "Pagans and Christians". Apparently because a large amount of research in the 70s and 80s had tapped into sources concerning Syrian and other Middle Eastern Christianity, much of it unknown in the West before that period. Then I saw some later material speculating that the Muslim minaret, with the imam calling the community to prayer, might have been inspired by the celebrity of the Stylites of Syria.



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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 1 - 6
Chapter 5 continues and perhaps even intensifies the light-hearted sardonic humour that makes me constantly smile.

Scout is largely excluded from the boy’s games, and takes refuge with her friend, the old widow Miss Maudie Atkinson. Now that reminds me: if she was a widow then why does she get called Miss?? I assume some of the southerners here have heard of scuppernongs. I had not.

Calling out the heavy infantry is obviously needed to deal with garden weeds, which must be poisoned as a pestilential evil. The long peaceful summer twilights on Miss Maudie’s porch, watching the pink sky turn as flights of martins sweep by, provides opportunity to find out about local history. It seems Maudie was a spinster, not a widow, since she received constant marriage requests from Scout's uncle.

The weirdly sad and invisible Radley family is Scout’s main interest. The sectarian divisions of the Baptist Church arose over doctrinal dispute about the total opposition to pleasure. For example, some backsliders did not accept the Biblical belief that gardening is a mortal sin that will condemn not only the gardener but their flowers to eternal torment in hell. These are the kind of men who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one. These points of theology seem to have led the Radleys to regard sunlight with the same dread as felt by a vampire.

Next comes the terrifying prospect of joining Jem and Dill in giving a note to Boo Radley, via fishing pole through the shutters, offering to buy him an icecream. The effort initially fails, on account of the bamboo pole lacking several inches of being long enough, and then Atticus turns up. Busted.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Thu Nov 26, 2020 4:24 am, edited 1 time in total.



Thu Nov 26, 2020 4:23 am
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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 1 - 6
Going back to Chap. 4 for a moment, I wonder about the remark of Calpurnia's that Scout reports. She says that Calpurnia considers Jem's talk about ghosts and spirits to be "nigger talk." Sometimes I wonder about how teachers present this book in classes. It's very popular still, I believe, in middle schools and grades 9 and 10. I wonder about the experience of the two or three black kids in an otherwise white classroom. Do they welcome discussing the book, or might they feel singled out and uncomfortable? I don't know. As for Calpurnia's remark, assuming that Lee is reflecting how some black people actually talked in Lee's day, what could be said to explain a black woman's use of the term for her people so pejorative today? Is Calpurnia herself prejudiced? I wonder whether young students have the perspective to be able to understand the social structure that existed in the segregated South, in which a woman like Calpurnia, restricted herself in what she could hope to become, nevertheless might grab ahold of whatever self-esteem she could, look down on others of her color, and perhaps not even consider them to be like herself. I'm imagining a world in which Calpurnia isn't even conscious of prejudice against black people; she might have once wondered about the reasons for white supremacy, but she would have come to accept that as the way the world is. Maybe?



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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 1 - 6
DWill wrote:
She says that Calpurnia considers Jem's talk about ghosts and spirits to be "nigger talk."
I think it is meant to be a way of saying the notions are "low" or "ignorant" in a way that Jem will respond to. Obviously White people also had such talk, though perhaps not as much or as vigorously. Calpurnia understands that she is standing in, to some extent, for their mother, and wants to "raise them right."

DWill wrote:
Sometimes I wonder about how teachers present this book in classes. It's very popular still, I believe, in middle schools and grades 9 and 10. I wonder about the experience of the two or three black kids in an otherwise white classroom. Do they welcome discussing the book, or might they feel singled out and uncomfortable? I don't know.
I am curious, too. I have a sense that the recommended way of dealing with it is to have a discussion, attempting to put this sort of usage on the same level one might with other ethnic slurs and allowing those who are the targets to reflect on how they are affected, to create some empathy among others. But I have only heard about it third hand, never engaged in a discussion with an English teacher who confronted the matter.

DWill wrote:
As for Calpurnia's remark, assuming that Lee is reflecting how some black people actually talked in Lee's day, what could be said to explain a black woman's use of the term for her people so pejorative today? Is Calpurnia herself prejudiced? I wonder whether young students have the perspective to be able to understand the social structure that existed in the segregated South, in which a woman like Calpurnia, restricted herself in what she could hope to become, nevertheless might grab ahold of whatever self-esteem she could, look down on others of her color, and perhaps not even consider them to be like herself. I'm imagining a world in which Calpurnia isn't even conscious of prejudice against black people; she might have once wondered about the reasons for white supremacy, but she would have come to accept that as the way the world is. Maybe?
I cannot imagine that Calpurnia was not aware of the social structures and the way they limited her and oppressed her kin and community. I suspect that in 1960 there would not have been any other honest way to represent such a comment.

I also suspect it was a reflection of the dilemmas of living with the oppressive system. We are now accustomed to careful parsing of terminology to avoid any microaggressions, but at the time the use of slurs would have been the least of the problems afflicting African-Americans. To avoid any reference to oppression would have been a massive circumlocution (I think this problem is still with us today, though to a much less serious degree), and having to acknowledge and even make use of the low status assigned to them, for instructional purposes, would have been one way of building up defenses against buying into that assignment. Which is pretty ironic, and should give pause. The observation which helped to sway Brown v. Board of Education was of a little Black girl who preferred to play with a White doll, and how can we get our heads around the damage done to self-esteem by a system so pervasive and violent that there was no realistic alternative to accepting it?

I had a really dynamic, intelligent Hispanic student last year who, when we discussed unemployment, explained about applying for 14 different jobs before getting a call-back. The first group he applied to were, "so White" as he put it, that they would not even consider him. He lived in a borderline suburb, just on the edge of Denver, and no doubt there is a real process of excluding young workers who don't "look the part". They might make a mistake, and no doubt it would be interpreted racially by some customers, and the organization can't afford to take that risk.



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Sat Nov 28, 2020 11:05 am
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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 1 - 6
Harry Marks wrote:
DWill wrote:
She says that Calpurnia considers Jem's talk about ghosts and spirits to be "nigger talk."
I think it is meant to be a way of saying the notions are "low" or "ignorant" in a way that Jem will respond to. Obviously White people also had such talk, though perhaps not as much or as vigorously. Calpurnia understands that she is standing in, to some extent, for their mother, and wants to "raise them right."

Possibly it's a usage of the word particular to black people who had been able to win relatively respectable roles. It might be equivalent to "those people of my color who are bringing us down. We're not all like that."

Harry Marks wrote:
DWill wrote:
Sometimes I wonder about how teachers present this book in classes. It's very popular still, I believe, in middle schools and grades 9 and 10. I wonder about the experience of the two or three black kids in an otherwise white classroom. Do they welcome discussing the book, or might they feel singled out and uncomfortable? I don't know.
I am curious, too. I have a sense that the recommended way of dealing with it is to have a discussion, attempting to put this sort of usage on the same level one might with other ethnic slurs and allowing those who are the targets to reflect on how they are affected, to create some empathy among others. But I have only heard about it third hand, never engaged in a discussion with an English teacher who confronted the matter.

The possible difficulty in teaching this with black students present might not involve just the dehumanizing epithet--nigger--but the powerlessness of the blacks in the story, the role of Tom Robinson as victim who needs to be saved by a noble white lawyer. Tom is stoic but is not, as I recall, given a lot to do or say. There is an argument to be made, after all, that the book isn't at this stage of history progressive on race. It's an easy win for whites. Teaching it today should probably involve noting the very limited effect of what Atticus did in Maycomb--stopping an enormous injustice to one individual, but not signifying that other black men would escape being lynched. And that's only the true life-or-death part; it's not to mention how many lives were stunted by racism. Teaching the book today might also to confront the paternalism indicated in the title and in other elements of the book. I wish I had read other, more incisive novels on the black experience to suggest to sub in for Mockingbird, but aside from two of Toni Morrison's (maybe suitable for some seniors), I haven't.

Harry Marks wrote:
DWill wrote:
As for Calpurnia's remark, assuming that Lee is reflecting how some black people actually talked in Lee's day, what could be said to explain a black woman's use of the term for her people so pejorative today? Is Calpurnia herself prejudiced? I wonder whether young students have the perspective to be able to understand the social structure that existed in the segregated South, in which a woman like Calpurnia, restricted herself in what she could hope to become, nevertheless might grab ahold of whatever self-esteem she could, look down on others of her color, and perhaps not even consider them to be like herself. I'm imagining a world in which Calpurnia isn't even conscious of prejudice against black people; she might have once wondered about the reasons for white supremacy, but she would have come to accept that as the way the world is. Maybe?
I cannot imagine that Calpurnia was not aware of the social structures and the way they limited her and oppressed her kin and community. I suspect that in 1960 there would not have been any other honest way to represent such a comment.

The action of the book is mid 30s, before much civil rights awareness, so I still think it's possible that Calpurnia accepted the way things are long ago and clings to whatever self-esteem she can muster, while lying low.
Quote:
Iand how can we get our heads around the damage done to self-esteem by a system so pervasive and violent that there was no realistic alternative to accepting it?

That's what I'm thinking of as Calpurnia's milieu.



Mon Nov 30, 2020 10:17 pm
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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 1 - 6
Chapter Six begins with a seeming continuation of the endless summer of idyllic childhood. Jem reliably informs Scout and Dill the gigantic full moon rising behind the pecan trees makes the evening summer temperature seem even hotter. The obsessive plot to see Boo Radley then continues with a high risk moonlit escapade through the rear vegetable plot to the back porch of the Radley residence. They are discovered on the creaking floorboards, and their hot escape is encouraged by a shotgun blast shattering the peaceful calm of the sleeping town. Then Jem gets caught in the wire at the back fence, losing his pants rather like Peter Rabbit in Beatrix Potter escaping from Mr McGregor’s garden.
Image

Playing all innocent, the three juvenile delinquents join the crowd on the street wondering like a lynch mob about the alleged nigger in the veggie patch, where their guilt is seemingly exposed by the absent pants. A desperate lie about a game of strip poker played with matches assuages some suspicions. It did not quite make sense to me, since matches are a substitute for money, not for the playing cards as Dill asserts. It seems it did not make sense to Atticus either, whose lawyer skills are not for nothing, although he did not bring his full prosecutorial forensics to bear on this feeble excuse.

Jem plans a 2am escape to recover the lost pants and avoid a thrashing, as the full momentous foolishness of his moonlit prank settles with its anxious weight of gravity upon his guilty conscience. Despite Atticus stirring, Jem accomplishes the recovery of the lost pants, safely returning to bed amidst the threatened proof of his miscreancy, somehow retaining at least something of his tattered beatific angelic reputation for now at least, despite the suspicions.

The overall impression I am getting is that there is no way any black person would have gotten away with the shenanigans that Jem concocts. The careful scene-setting seems to be preparing for a brutal adult world infested by severe racial inequality in the administration of justice.


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Mon Nov 30, 2020 10:45 pm
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