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Chapter 20

Professor Bradley Greenburg from Northeastern Illinois University explains Chapter 20 in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill a Mockingbird | Chapter 20 | Summary

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Summary

In the square Scout and Dill talk with Dolphus Raymond. Raymond has a black girlfriend and several mixed-race children, a situation that many people in Maycomb look down upon. Raymond offers Dill a drink from his ever-present brown bag to help settle his stomach. Scout is aghast, assuming it's alcohol, but Dill accepts, takes a sip, and tells Scout "it's nothing but Coca-Cola." Scout is taken aback and, in a display of growing command of her interactions with others, asks Raymond why he lets people think he's a drunk.

Raymond explains that he pretends to be a drunk to deflect the community's ire. The citizens of Maycomb accept the plausible explanation that he is a drunk and leave him and his family alone.

The children return to the courtroom as Atticus makes his closing remarks. Dill gets Jem and Scout's attention, pointing below as Calpurnia makes her way up the aisle toward Atticus.

Analysis

The interaction between Scout, Dill, and Dolphus Raymond offers a little break from the tension in the courtroom and provides yet another view of Maycomb's complex society. Raymond lives with his black girlfriend and their children outside of town as a way of avoiding the community's intolerance.

In a way Raymond, like Atticus, is standing up for what he believes. He is making a statement just by the life he leads. But he compromises his statement by hiding behind the image of a drunkard because it makes his life easier. Atticus is quiet about his beliefs until they are challenged; then he simply states what he believes and stands behind it. When it is suggested that Atticus shouldn't have taken the case in the first place because he has so much to lose, Atticus makes clear his belief in equality. Atticus says Tom "might go to the chair, but he's not going till the truth's told." Atticus, unlike Dolphus Raymond, leaves no doubt where he stands.

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