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To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12 
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 To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12
To Kill a Mockingbird


Please use this thread to discuss Chapters 7 through 12.



Wed Oct 21, 2020 6:27 pm
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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12
Skipping ahead again. Sorry. I find the book compulsively readable. Having read Ch. 11 at the end of Part I, I was very impressed with Atticus' reading of the courageous and cantankerous Mrs. Dubose. Jem calls her "Old hell-devil" and needs comforting from Atticus. It strikes me that the children were very obedient to do as Atticus instructed, with Jem going to read to the evil old woman, not even putting up as much fuss as Scout did about going to school.

The story serves partly to underline the harassment the children will go through (including the climactic scene, as I recall). Keeping their temper is a sore trial, and Atticus explaining that majority rule does not work on a person's conscience probably doesn't help much, but it rings true. Everybody in town wants him to close ranks in their tribal way, and he will probably lose his seat in the legislature, but despite the way he seeks to be part of their culture (at least, according to "Watchman") he also feels he must stand up for what he thinks is right.

It occurs to me that this would have been heard in a nation that was still soul-sickened by McCarthyism and the pressure to conform. The kind of people who read such things in that time would have nodded sagely about the wisdom of Atticus, but I wonder if they had much sense of how much character it took in a small town to buck the conformity. But I am sold on the basic storyline that Lee is pitching here, that a man explaining himself to his children is confronting his deepest values, and struggling to put them into words.

It also occurs to me that Atticus was somewhat like a minister in being present at Mrs. Dubose's writing of her will, and so being part of her ultimate struggle. Small towns must have been that way, with children getting to know their neighbors, hearing their deep story, and so being exposed to the variegated patchwork of human experience like something Margaret Mead would have approved of. I wonder if they are still like that, or maybe have substituted pop culture and the internet for the story-swapping and gossip-spreading.

And what's the significance of Atticus breaking his glasses when he has to shoot the poor dog?



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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12
I am loving this book. I have a vague memory of the scene with the shooting of the mad dog, probably from the movie rather than the book. I found it fully engaging, but not as gripping as the scene from the movie. The fear felt by the adults, for once obeyed pretty much without objection by the children, serves to convey the tension and fear of the scene. But the focus in Lee's writing is on Atticus passing the rifle back to the lawman, and gently having it passed back to him. I am still working on why she tells about him stepping on his glasses - maybe to show he was not as cool and self-possessed as one might think.

It occurs to me now that his perception of justice might be classed as a talent, the sort of thing that he insists one should not feel pride in. Maybe we are meant to consider that it was more of a personality trait (Atticus certainly has a quick grasp both of right and wrong and of the task of explaining complex adult things to his children, as does Miss Maudie) than a cultivated, studied social grace, (as far as we can tell). I think there is a fair amount of reflection by Harper Lee going into the processing of what made her father, in many ways a creature of his culture, able to take a more just approach to the trial of Tom Robinson.

The response of the children to the shooting is telling. Jem is deeply impressed that his father has this hidden talent. His father is a potent man after all, not limited to the tainted skills of book-learning. Suddenly Jem is ready to emulate him, and styles himself a gentleman like his father. Scout is just taking it all in, as her view of the world rises a level to possibilities she had never envisioned.



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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12
Having resolutely avoided reading Harry's comments on these chapters, I have finally got around to reading part of them. I am now up to chapter nine, after more of the childhood fun and games.
Suddenly the tone changes with the following fraught exchange, starting to get the tension rising about the theme of the book.

Quote:
Cecil Jacobs had announced in the schoolyard the day before that Scout Finch’s daddy defended niggers. I denied it, but told Jem. “What’d he mean sayin‘ that?” I asked. “Nothing,” Jem said. “Ask Atticus, he’ll tell you.” “Do you defend niggers, Atticus?” I asked him that evening. “Of course I do. Don’t say nigger, Scout. That’s common.” “‘s what everybody at school says.” “From now on it’ll be everybody less one—” “Well if you don’t want me to grow up talkin‘ that way, why do you send me to school?” My father looked at me mildly, amusement in his eyes.


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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12
Chapter Nine certainly heats things up reflecting the prevailing lynch mob mentality of 1950s Alabama.

I found the line quoted above about Atticus with mild amusement in his eyes profoundly perceptive about how he would have had to conceal his alarm about his children’s exposure to virulent racism. Scout’s school is training her for ignorant reaction, against which her respect for her father serves as the only defence.
Quote:
I faced Cecil Jacobs in the schoolyard next day: “You gonna take that back, boy?” “You gotta make me first!” he yelled. “My folks said your daddy was a disgrace an‘ that nigger oughta hang from the water-tank!” I drew a bead on him, remembered what Atticus had said, then dropped my fists and walked away, “Scout’s a cow—ward!” ringing in my ears. It was the first time I ever walked away from a fight. Somehow, if I fought Cecil I would let Atticus down.
Things get worse. Dealing with schoolyard bullies is one thing, but cousins are another thing entirely. Here is an extract when Scout and family visit conservative relatives for Christmas dinner. You can really see the hurt and pain in Harper Lee’s experience as family denounce and reject and shun those who insist on the equal humanity of black people, with children serving as the proxy for adults who apply a policy of quiet revulsion.
Quote:
Francis grinned at me. “You’re mighty dumb sometimes, Jean Louise. Guess you don’t know any better, though.” “What do you mean?” “If Uncle Atticus lets you run around with stray dogs, that’s his own business, like Grandma says, so it ain’t your fault. I guess it ain’t your fault if Uncle Atticus is a nigger-lover besides, but I’m here to tell you it certainly does mortify the rest of the family—” “Francis, what the hell do you mean?” “Just what I said. 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 agin. He’s ruinin‘ the family, that’s what he’s doin’.” Francis rose and sprinted down the catwalk to the old kitchen. At a safe distance he called, “He’s nothin‘ but a nigger-lover!” “He is not!” I roared. “I don’t know what you’re talkin‘ about, but you better cut it out this red hot minute!” I leaped off the steps and ran down the catwalk. It was easy to collar Francis. I said take it back quick. Francis jerked loose and sped into the old kitchen. “Nigger-lover!” he yelled.


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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12
So Scout punches her cousin, and she gets all the blame, with no chance to explain the provocation. The Atticus Finch family leave the Christmas dinner in a huff, vowing never to see their relatives again. The racists have won, ostracising the anti-racists while convincing themselves the issue is not their racism, but the uncouth behaviour of the anti-racists.

Then Uncle Jack turns up and hears Scout’s side of the story, which he then discusses with Atticus, carefully censoring all mention of the “nigger-lover” calumny (at Scout’s request), leaving the impression Scout retains blame as ‘hot-headed’ when she was standing up for principle.

In response to Jack, Atticus gets onto the court case, and comments “reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up.”

The book is a remarkable psychological case study of how feelings of pride and honour get in the way of honesty and openness.


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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12
I recently read of a program training children from deep urban poverty in the theater. Its purpose, at least for those who had been traumatized or seriously chronically overstressed by neglect or abuse, was to get them to feel their feelings and gain a sense of what it feels like to be acting on other emotions. The leaders were shocked to discover this did not lead to empathy, at least not at first. Instead the feelings that surfaced were the weakness and thus offensiveness of the "victims" in the scenarios they went over.

Yes, that is the hard part of the equation to make sense of: that those who are victims deserve it, because they are weak. To register it as a human feeling at all, you have to think yourself into a family system in which someone, usually the mother, fails to stand up to abuse and thus leaves the child at the mercy of the abuser. Toughness, strength, even ferocity become the only dimension of personal attributes that matters at all. There were strong hints of that in "Hillbilly Elegy" as well as in "Educated", and certainly in Ta-Nehisi Coates' explanation of life on the streets in the neighborhood where he grew up.

I believe it is that kind of mentality that is at work when "pride and honour" become a system of dominance, scapegoating and inhumanity. Needless to say such a social system is self-perpetuating, and there is a dimension of non-violent resistance that we often fail to recognize: the insistence on showing strength even while refusing to answer violence with violence is a powerful disruptive force to the mentality in which nothing, nothing is as scary as falling into the status of a victim.



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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12
Harry Marks wrote:
a dimension of non-violent resistance that we often fail to recognize: the insistence on showing strength even while refusing to answer violence with violence is a powerful disruptive force to the mentality in which nothing, nothing is as scary as falling into the status of a victim.

This reminds me of a conversation I am in about messianic theology, the idea that our world is in a deluded state, on a path to destruction, which can only be averted through transformative vision. The messianic qualities of Jesus Christ in the Gospels turn around precisely this theme of the disruptive force of non-violent resistance.

Jesus displays a sense of honour and integrity as a peacemaker and reconciler that totally infuriates the prevailing mentality of derision toward victims. His line to Pilate that he is a martyr to the truth sets Jesus up for crucifixion, largely due to the emotional unacceptability of such a stance against the dominant assumptions and values of the surrounding society.

Atticus Finch is also a messianic Christ figure in this sense.

In the conversation I am having, a person who initially supported my comments went ballistic when I argued that the messianic dimension of the Gospels gives them a redemptive quality.


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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12
Robert Tulip wrote:
Atticus Finch is also a messianic Christ figure in this sense.

I think you are right. It is quite a jump for me, since I see Atticus as a fine father who lets his children "run loose" and cares to set an example, but who also remains among these small-minded people, holding on to his elevated sentiments but holding no hope of raising their sights.

It's interesting to see his limited Messiahship through the lens of Rene Girard's mimetic theory. Girard sees the desire to fit in, and the envy of those with more status, as the implacable drivers of conflict. And he sees the Christ choice of accepting hostility and scape-goat position as the only way to overcome the violence system.

Finch would seem to be a poor fit, since he comes from an elevated, educated position, rather unlike the background of Jesus, and thus by inherited status he escaped the need to embrace lies to feel accepted. ("Earned grace" as Adichie called it). He accepts the burden of truth at some cost, but this is limited to the small role of giving honest advocacy in the court, and the narrow threat of having his children attacked for his departure from the scape-goating script. I suppose in the American context of egalitarian mythology and extensive freedom to make one's way, this is a natural situation for a sort of democratic Messiah figure.

It's true that Finch doesn't take any position of superior power, and he lays the facts in front of the good White people of the community. Like Jesus he confronts them with the choice of whom to serve, and keeps faith in the goodness laying buried deep inside them. He doesn't pretend to rule over them, and I guess that's the essence of the Girardian reversal. Maybe his skill with the rifle is an image of the power he voluntarily lays down. His use of words rather than arms makes an interesting contrast to the scene in "Huckleberry Finn" in which the Southern aristocrat confronts a mob and insults their manhood, but with gun in hand of course.

Robert Tulip wrote:
In the conversation I am having, a person who initially supported my comments went ballistic when I argued that the messianic dimension of the Gospels gives them a redemptive quality.
I have a feeling I would be distressed to hear the gist of that conversation, but I would still add one note. It seems obvious from the Gospels (and clear enough, though less obvious, from Paul's letters) that Jesus intentionally confronted the violent vision of a Messiah inherited with the story of the Maccabees, choosing prophecies of a gentle Messiah to enact by contrast with Rome as well. (You would probably say the story was woven to create such a figure, and that's alright too). All this to say that Jesus is very much about changing the meaning of the notion of the Messiah, as much as laying claim to that position. (The famous Messianic secret in Mark, the earliest gospel, makes his refusal to claim the position a major theme.)

So when you refer to the messianic dimension of the Gospels I guess that you fold in the non-violent definition given to that title, and that when you refer to the redemptive quality you are looking primarily at the non-violent "holding fast to truth" (satyagraha, in Gandhi's terms). Yet Gandhi's confrontation was to some extent against a particular type (instance, even) of injustice, without the emphasis in the Gospels on escape from the grip of desire for status and violent power. Not that Gandhi did not see the connection to individual redemption, but non-violence takes the foreground for him mainly as a means, while Christianity seems to hold it as very much an end in itself, foregrounded as such. So I am meandering toward the conclusion that the redemptive quality to which you refer is actually more about the particular form of Messiahship instantiated by Jesus than about a messianic archetype that can be re-enacted in virtually any situation of injustice.

If I can try just one more step with this argument, the conflict Jesus engages in is not with Rome, but with his people's vision of liberation by force. Thus it is not so much with injustice per se but with buying into the rules of the game that say that the sword can determine what is right. It's about what makes life meaningful to anyone, with or without injustice to stand up to.



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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12
I was interested in Atticus's presentation to his kids of his reasons for defending Tom Robinson. I apologize for not having the citations. The first time he explains, he frames his defense in terms of obedience to authority: if he didn't follow the judge's order for him to defend Robinson, he couldn't ask the children to obey him, either. The second time, I recall that he puts his decision in terms of being true to his conscience: justice applies to all people.

I don't know if I can quite agree about Atticus as a Christ figure. Yes, he is preternaturally forgiving and loving toward others, despite what we see as the others' terrible prejudice. But he doesn't have a radical disagreement with his society, which isn't to be wondered at since he is deeply embedded in it. He is willing to stand up for a man's right to American justice vs. the passion of the mob, and that's not to be underestimated. But that such a basic right for black people needs to be boldly asserted only shows how far they fall below the moral regard of ruling whites.

I thought it was also interesting that Jem and Scout were impressed by Atticus shooting the rabid dog, which might have presented some slight danger to people. I'm sure they had to be impressed as well by Atticus standing up to the mob out to lynch Tom Robinson--an act of much greater courage than confronting a mad dog--but it was probably harder for them to evaluate what Atticus was doing and why. Sorry, I think the incident is in a later chapter.



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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12
Chapter Ten begins with the contrast between the perceived uselessness of a lawyer and the practicality of ordinary country people. This is a simple prejudice to hold, but it fails to see how the institutions of rule of law enable the prosperity produced by more tangible occupations. Rule of law is the only thing that prevents a rapid descent into the tyranny of the lynch mob.

And then comes the title line:
Quote:
“Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
The mockingbird symbolises the innocent black man Tom Robinson whom Atticus is defending. Unlike pious people who harp on about alleged sins that are just matters of social convention, the statement from Atticus that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird is presenting the prophetic line of the moral centrality of recognising shared humanity and justice. He is saying that the entrenched racism of Alabama is morally evil, and that the lynch mob is the equivalent of the baying crowd who condemned the innocent man Jesus Christ to the cross.

It reminds me of the line from Matthew 23:23
Jesus Christ wrote:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.


We will soon encounter a case study of pharisaical morality in the horrible Mrs Dubose. While condemning the sin of support for injustice, Atticus will still take a remarkably compassionate approach toward those whose morality he condemns, rather like Jesus eating with tax collectors.


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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12
Robert Tulip wrote:
The mockingbird symbolises the innocent black man Tom Robinson whom Atticus is defending. Unlike pious people who harp on about alleged sins that are just matters of social convention, the statement from Atticus that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird is presenting the prophetic line of the moral centrality of recognising shared humanity and justice. He is saying that the entrenched racism of Alabama is morally evil, and that the lynch mob is the equivalent of the baying crowd who condemned the innocent man Jesus Christ to the cross.

Understand that I'm not out to shoot down the moral message of this book. I do think it's wise to examine this metaphor for what it might say about the handicaps that even enlightened people in the 30s labored under. I mean that they could genuinely feel the evil of disregard for the physical well-being of black people, yet employ a view of black people as simple, harmless, meaning no offense to anyone, fully human but less capable than whites, to limit the role that blacks could assume in society. Segregationists could be kind people.



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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12
DWill wrote:
Understand that I'm not out to shoot down the moral message of this book. I do think it's wise to examine this metaphor for what it might say about the handicaps that even enlightened people in the 30s labored under. I mean that they could genuinely feel the evil of disregard for the physical well-being of black people, yet employ a view of black people as simple, harmless, meaning no offense to anyone, fully human but less capable than whites, to limit the role that blacks could assume in society. Segregationists could be kind people.
Well, I guess that is an illuminating observation about the limitations of kindness. As long as Black people could be looked down on, there was no reason to be unkind. Same for the White trash, of course, including the horrible person who passes off his abuse as Tom Robinson's doing, but of course those people could not be confident of looking down on Blacks. Much safer to have them as designated victims.

You can see another side of this obfuscation in the condescending assumption of corruption in elections held in those Democrat, "urban" big cities. Any lie told about them is instantly believed. How much better off "they" would be if looked after by "us". Like the kindly segregationists who felt bad that more money could not be found for Black schools, but knew it would not make much difference anyhow.



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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12
Paternalism might be a good word to sum up the outlook of Atticus toward blacks. That's way better than the thoughts of the Cunningham clan. But paternalism is also a respectable way to keep one's group in top position.

I've just finished reading Go Set a Watchman. It was a little disorienting to feel disappointment at what Atticus had become, only to have to keep reminding myself that he actually "became" in the revision we know as Mockingbird. In one sense, though, I wasn't bothered by the different Atticuses. All they shared was a name. I don't hear Mockingbird's Atticus as Watchman's Atticus speaks.

My wife refuses to read Watchman, I think with good reason. Lee naturally would veto any suggestion to publish a first draft--until, that is, she became less capable of managing her own affairs. Then the opportunists stepped in.



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Post Re: To Kill a Mockingbird: Chapters 7 - 12
This was a great book. I really enjoyed reading it. You should check out this book. Its really good. https://amzn.to/37PGpg2



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• Steampunk / Historical Romance - ARC Reviewers Needed - Dead Dukes Tell No Tales

Thu Jun 17, 2021 11:46 am

BookBuzz

• I: Tools of the Trades: Writing Science (Neil deGrasse Tyson)

Wed Jun 16, 2021 9:30 pm

Mr. P

• Chaos Quarter: Wrath of the Hegemons

Wed Jun 16, 2021 4:20 pm

David Welch

• Reviewers Wanted - Historical Novel - Shadows of Saigon

Wed Jun 16, 2021 12:28 pm

BookBuzz

• Reviewers Needed - New Military / Action Thriller - Setareh Doctrine By Mark Downer

Wed Jun 16, 2021 12:10 pm

BookBuzz

• Clean Mystery - REVIEWERS WANTED - Circumvent By S.K. Derban

Wed Jun 16, 2021 11:41 am

BookBuzz

• Chaos Quarter: Horde - A princess, a motley crew, and a space horde collide...

Tue Jun 15, 2021 3:51 pm

David Welch

• Reviewers Needed - FREE Review Copies - Historical / Military Fiction - American Valor

Tue Jun 15, 2021 1:50 pm

BookBuzz

• Reviewers Wanted - FREE Review Copies - Mystery / Suspense - He Goes Out Weeping

Tue Jun 15, 2021 12:46 pm

BookBuzz


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