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To Kill a Mockingbird | Discussion Questions 61 - 70


In Chapter 13 of To Kill a Mockingbird why does Aunt Alexandra show up on the Finches' doorstep?

Aunt Alexandra says that she and Atticus have decided that since both Jem and Scout are growing up, her visit will offer some feminine influence, which will be particularly beneficial for Scout's sake.

In Chapter 13 of To Kill a Mockingbird what is the outcome of Atticus's conversation with Jem and Scout about breeding, behavior, and being a Finch?

The conversation that Aunt Alexandra suggests Atticus have with his children—about proper behavior, living up to one's name, and so forth—is a failure. Because the core points of the discussion are Alexandra's ideas and not Atticus's, he is espousing thoughts that are not his and that he doesn't believe. He stumbles his way into the conversation, confuses Jem and Scout about what he is trying to say, and, in trying to make it clearer, he makes both of them nervous and upset. Ultimately he realizes that he is being untrue to his own beliefs and, in a small way, discouraging children who are well on their way to becoming fine people. Coming to his senses, he tells them to forget everything he said.

In Chapter 14 of To Kill a Mockingbird what major change to the household does Aunt Alexandra suggest, and why is it significant?

Early in Chapter 14 Aunt Alexandra suggests that Atticus let Calpurnia go. She says the family no longer needs Calpurnia. However, it is clear that Alexandra is racially biased; she was particularly unhappy that Calpurnia had taken Jem and Scout to church with her. Her racism—and sense of what is acceptable—is a more true motivation.

In Chapter 14 of To Kill a Mockingbird what does Scout mistake for a snake when she steps on it in her darkened bedroom?

When Scout steps on something in her bedroom one night, she tells Jem she fears there is a snake under her bed. Arming themselves with a broom, she and Jem return to the room and discover that "the snake" is Dill. Dill has returned to Maycomb from Meridian, Mississippi, since his summer with his mother and stepfather is not going well.

In Chapter 14 of To Kill a Mockingbird how does Dill say he got back to Maycomb?

In a long, colorful story Dill tells Jem and Scout that to get to Maycomb, he took money from his mother's handbag, took "the nine o'clock from Meridian and got off at Maycomb Junction." It's not clear what of the additional details—about clinging to a covered wagon, walking 10 or 11 miles, and so on—are accurate, but with Dill, colorful details are expected. After all Dill initially told them he was bound in chains and left to die in the basement of his home, only to free himself, join an animal show, and walk to Maycomb.

In Chapter 15 of To Kill a Mockingbird whom does Scout spot among the mob at the jailhouse?

At the jailhouse Scout at first sees nothing but a sea of faces, but then she recognizes Walter Cunningham Sr., who is both a former client of Atticus and the father of her classmate, Walter Cunningham Jr. In engaging Mr. Cunningham Scout helps to defuse the tension at the jail. After a while he speaks to Scout and tells the "boys" to "clear out," and the group disperses.

In Chapter 15 of To Kill a Mockingbird when Scout recognizes Walter Cunningham Sr., what does she ask him to do that inadvertently breaks the tension of the mob?

When Scout recognizes Walter Cunningham Sr. among the men at the jailhouse, she asks him about how his "entailment is gettin' along." She reminds him that she goes to school with his son, Walter Jr., and asks him to tell Walter hello for her. She also tells the reader that Atticus has taught her to engage people on subjects they're interested in. In talking to Mr. Cunningham as a person, asking him about something he's interested in, calling out the common ground they have, and treating him with the respect that her father has instilled in her, she inadvertently forces the men out of their anonymity. With anonymity broken, the power of the mob is broken, and the men disperse.

In Chapter 15 of To Kill a Mockingbird, after the mob leaves the jailhouse who does Atticus discover has been watching from the shadows, ready to help if needed?

Once the mob of men has dispersed from the jailhouse that fateful Sunday evening, Braxton Underwood, publisher of The Maycomb Tribune, reveals himself from the shadows of the second floor of his newspaper office, double-barreled shotgun in hand. Interestingly, although Atticus says in Chapter 16 that Underwood despises blacks, he is here defending Tom Robinson against the mob, alongside Atticus. From what readers see of Braxton later in the courthouse, and through his editorial, Braxton may be biased, but his prejudice is tempered by—or even in conflict with—a strong sense of right and wrong.

In Chapter 16 of To Kill a Mockingbird when Dill embellishes the night's events at the jailhouse, how does Aunt Alexandra reveal her feelings about the Cunninghams?

In refuting Dill's account of how Atticus, Jem, Scout, and he fought off an angry mob of 100 men, Aunt Alexandra retorts, "It was just a nest of those Cunninghams, drunk and disorderly." So often when she speaks Alexandra's choice of words—even a short phrase such as "a nest of those Cunninghams"—reveals much about her bias toward the various groups of people in Maycomb whom she considers beneath her.

On the morning after the jailhouse incident in Chapter 16 of To Kill a Mockingbird, what does Atticus say about Braxton Underwood that Aunt Alexandra later chastises him for?

In talking about Braxton Underwood's presence during the jailhouse scene, Atticus says to Alexandra: "It's a funny thing about Braxton ... He despises Negroes, won't have one near him." When Calpurnia leaves the room Alexandra suggests that Atticus shouldn't say things like that in front of Calpurnia. Atticus insists that "anything fit to say at the table's fit to say in front of Calpurnia." It is clear he considers her family. But in Alexandra's view letting black people feel that they are family—speaking with them openly as Atticus does—"encourages" them.

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