This section of To Kill a Mockingbird was very eventful. The beginning was focused on the incident with the mad dog and Jem and Scout learning to see Atticus in a new way. We then met Mrs. Dubose, the Finch’s neighbour who yelled insults at the Finch children and was later revealed to be sick. Jem was made to read to her as punishment for ruining her garden in a fit of rage. One of my favourite chapters was twelve when Calpurnia took Jem and Scout with her to church and we got to see more into the racial issues in this setting. Once they got home from church they found Aunt Alexandra on their front porch. A little while after settling Aunt Alexandra into the Finch home Scout finds Dill hiding under her bed, as it turns out he ran away from his father and after talking to his parents was allowed to stay in Maycomb. Lastly we watch Jem, Scout, and Dill follow Atticus downtown to where tom is being held and find him surrounded by angry men he was saved by Scout interrupting and causing the men to leave.
My favourite chapters were eleven and twelve. I enjoyed chapter eleven because it helped to show more about Atticus’ personality and added depth to the book. I was touched by Atticus’ ability to put aside any insults Mrs Dubose had thrown at him and to write her will and get Jem to read to her in her last days. I think it was a good lesson to give his children. I was intrigued by Calpurnia taking the kids to church because it really showed how severe racism and segregation was back then. The black people weren’t allowed to go to school, they were much poorer and had to be respectful to two white children even at their own church.
A few things I didn’t like in these chapters was the way that Dill’s story was executed. I was a bit confused and I feel that the writer could have focused a bit more on him but maybe she will later in the book. I also didn’t enjoy Aunt Alexandra’s return to the book but that is only because I really dislike her character but I do understand that she is important to the plot. She was brought in and tried to enforce gender roles and was there to sort of act as a mother figure. It was obvious that Atticus did not want her there but he felt it would be better for Jem and Scout if she was.
A reoccurring theme I noticed in these chapters was discussion and foreshadowing to Tom Robinson’s case. There was also quite a bit of character development during these chapters, Atticus— was introduced more to us with Mrs Dubose and preparing the kids for the case. Jem definitely has started maturing and we can see Scout struggling with Jem growing up.
I enjoyed these chapters and I feel like the story is starting to pick up more and is almost at the climax. I am very intrigued and exited to see what will happen with Tom’s case and it was hard to put down the book at the end of chapter fifteen.
A strong theme of the book that has come up a lot is gender identity and sexism. Scout especially struggles with this issue. She dislikes being called a ‘girl’ or pushed to be more ladylike and is very ambiguous in terms of gender.
People are often commenting on Scouts lack of ladylikeness, like her Uncle at Christmas, ‘“You want to grow up to be a lady don’t you?” I said not particularly’. Scout dislikes these comments so much because at that time and still these days to an extent it was/is considered weak or worse to be a ‘girl’. Scout wants to be seen as strong and she believes that she won’t be unless she acts like a boy. This still happens a lot in modern day, girls who are tomboys are often seen as better and girly girls are made fun of and accused of contributing to sexism and gender stereotypes. Really it’s the other way around if we didn’t have a problem with women then we wouldn’t have a problem with being girly.
Women have always had a lower status than men especially in a time period like the 30’s. Girls were not supposed to swear, shoot guns, fight or be in positions of power, many didn’t go to school or work and their biggest goal in life was to get married and have kids.
Gender roles and stereotypes were more prominent; men weren’t allowed to cook, ‘“Boys don’t cook.” I giggled at the thought of Jem in an apron and women weren’t supposed to wear pants, ‘She said I wasn’t supposed to be doing things that required pants’. Even with all of this we don’t see as much sexism and gender roles in this book as we would if Scout wasn’t a ‘tomboy’ or Atticus was more strict and controlling of her. ‘He (Atticus) said there were already enough sunbeams in the family and to go about my business, he didn’t mind me much the way I was’.
It is very surprising to me at how successful Harper Lee was considering this book is not only written by a female but about a female. I think that Harper Lee knew that her and Scouts gender was going to be an issue which is why she wrote Scout so ambiguously. It also didn’t hurt that Harper is a gender neutral name.
Sexism and gender are a very important part of the book whether we’re seeing Scouts struggle with being a girl, Atticus being considered a bad father or just staying true to history, it is very present.
The people of Maycomb County have brought to my attention the fact that most of us believe exactly what we are told. The characters in To kill a Mockingbird all have their own ideas and stories about everyone else in the town, especially Boo Radley. There are so many rumours circulating and everyone is content to believe that they are true. They all believe that they know everything about everybody when really they could have it all completely wrong. The same can be said for us readers. We have all built up our own ideas of the characters and where the story is going to go but we don’t really know anything. I’m excited to continue Scouts story and see if anything will surprise me.
‘It seemed Atticus threatened us every other day’
Obviously as someone growing up with today’s beliefs about how to discipline kids and what good parenting is this passage was bound to grab my attention. When I read this line I stopped and really started thinking about how the children and parents had interacted so far in the story.
Atticus often threatens to whip Jem and Scout. Scout was even given a whipping at school. Physical punishments where normal and expected in that time period. It was thought of as a quick and easy way to teach kids to behave. People didn’t think it would ever harm a child emotionally, it would just toughen them up.
Kids were left unsupervised like Jem and Scout because there wasn’t much for them to do other than play outside all day and parents didn’t see any possible threats by letting them do that. Another reason we don’t see as many kids and parents interacting is that this book takes place during the great depression during which parents were more concerned with getting food on the table then playing with their kids and making sure they’re going to school and are out of trouble.
It is important to the plot to include this parenting because it stays true to history and if the kids were supervised 24/7 it would be a lot harder for most of the story to happen. This also adds more depth to how Scout and Atticus interact, they seem less like parent and child and more like friends. I’m not sure if their relationship will change throughout the book or if the lack of supervision will become an even more important role in the plot. I’ll just have to keep reading and find out.