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To Kill A Mocking Bird: Chivalry

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Elizabeth Robin

on 27 April 2010

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Transcript of To Kill A Mocking Bird: Chivalry

Chivalry What is chivalry?
It is opening doors for people
It is being nice because you want to be nice
It used to be what a Knights code or law what they lived by
Doing the right thing because it is the right thing
Always protect the small and helpless Some Say Chivalry is Dead "I got somethin' to say an' then I ain't gonna say no more. That nigger yonder took advantage of me an' if you fine fancy gentlemen don't wanta do nothin' about it then you're all yellow stinkin' cowards, stinkin' cowards, the lot of you. Your fancy airs don't come to nothin' – your ma'amin' and Miss Mayellerin' don't come to nothin', Mr. Finch-" Then she burst into real tears.(chapter 18. page 167)
Mayella’s comment suggests that for men to be big brave heroes, they have to believe that women are helpless timid victims in need of protection or avenging. According to this logic, proper men have to take Mayella’s word over Tom’s, or risk having their Man Licenses revoked, because Man has been defined as He Who Protects Women, not as He Who Listens Carefully To All The Evidence And Makes A Rational, Considered Judgment Based On The Facts.
Mayella Ewell whatever Mayella’s hopes and dreams are, she doesn’t get a chance to express them to the reader; she appears only at Tom’s trial, where she’s performing a role for public consumption, that of the poor innocent white woman attacked by the evil black man, who must be protected by chivalrous white men. While Scout doesn’t see a problem with her Mortal Kombat approach to dealing with people, Atticus thinks otherwise, and tells Scout not to fight any more. Scout has difficulty obeying him, but manages it at least some of the time, starting with her classmate Cecil Jacobs. And so Scout learns the pleasure of moral superiority, though she does eventually understand that there are more reasons against fighting than obedience to Atticus and getting to feel noble. Even then, however, she does maintain a few private exceptions. Why will Scout not fight Cecil, whom she has to see every day, but will fight Francis, whom she sees only a few times a year? Perhaps it has to do with her desire to do right by Atticus – fighting her schoolmates would be publicly going against his command, while hauling off at Francis is all in the family, so to speak. 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. Atticus so rarely asked Jem and me to do something for him, I could take being called a coward for him. I felt extremely noble for having remembered, and remained noble for three weeks. (9.30-31)

After my bout with Cecil Jacobs when I committed myself to a policy of cowardice, word got around that Scout Finch wouldn't fight any more, her daddy wouldn't let her. This was not entirely correct: I wouldn't fight publicly for Atticus, but the family was private ground. I would fight anyone from a third cousin upwards tooth and nail. (10.6) Jean-Louise Finch (Scout) Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem) Jem’s most dramatic failure of gentlemanly behavior is his assault on Mrs. Dubose’s camellias after hearing one too many insults from her on Atticus’s moral character. sometimes wondered exactly what made Jem do it, what made him break the bonds of "You just be a gentleman, son," and the phase of self-conscious rectitude he had recently entered. Jem had probably stood as much guff about Atticus lawing for niggers as had I, and I took it for granted that he kept his temper – he had a naturally tranquil disposition and a slow fuse. At the time, however, I thought the only explanation for what he did was that for a few minutes he simply went mad. (11.29) Perhaps Jem saw this as a way to get revenge on an ugly world through taking his rage out on things, rather than people. Faced with a person, Jem can hold himself back, but faced with an empty porch and a garden full of camellias, he’s like someone looking at a sandcastle after the obnoxious kids who built it have left – total annihilation feels too satisfying to resist.

Jem, however, still has to face up to what he did, and Mrs. Dubose extracts every morsel of the pound of flesh she demands in retribution, and then some. Jem resists Atticus’s commands first to apologize to Mrs. Dubose and then to agree to her demand that he read to her, but he obeys, and never again shows his anger at Mrs. Dubose’s words. Atticus’s response – putting Jem right back in the situation that got him into trouble in the first place, listening to Mrs. Dubose – shows his trust that Jem will do better in future, which Jem does his best to live up to. Atticus Finch
When Scout doesn’t want to go back to school, Atticus doesn’t just tell her that she has to go and that’s that; instead, he listens to Scout’s explanation of why she’s upset, and tries to make her see her teacher’s side of things before coming up with a compromise that makes Scout happier.
Atticus is the opposite of a hypocrite: he says what he means, and lives how he thinks. In raising his children, he tries to get them to understand not only how they should behave, but why they should behave that way. This parenting attitude works most of the time, but causes problems when the kids apply Atticus’s principles in ways he doesn’t expect. While Atticus holds his children to the same high standards as he holds himself, he also is there for them when they need him. The last sentence of the novel reinforces this aspect of his character: “He turned out the light and went into Jem's room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning” (31.56). Even when Jem’s unconscious and has no way of knowing what’s going on, Atticus is there for him – because it’s the right thing to do, even if no one’s watching? Atticus’s courtroom language creeps into the way that he talks to his kids, and so does his judicial concern with fairness. As Scout tells Uncle Jack, “When Jem an' I fuss Atticus doesn't ever just listen to Jem's side of it, he hears mine too” (9.46). Scout also tells Miss Maudie, "Atticus don't ever do anything to Jem and me in the house that he don't do in the yard” (5.53). Atticus runs his family like a judge: he’s the one in charge, and has a clear set of rules that he expects his kids to follow, but he makes sure that both sides have their say. Atticus doesn’t expect his kids to respect him just because he’s their father, but because he acts in a way that deserves respect. His honesty with his children means that they trust him, and look to him for guidance. Calpurnia Calpurnia teaches Scout and Jem about community values, and their relativity: what’s right in one place may be wrong in another. But is that always true? Atticus is famous for acting the same everywhere, and that’s presented as a good thing. Why can Atticus always be the same, while Calpurnia has to adapt herself depending on the community she’s in? Is one of these approaches more successful than the other?

Seeing Calpurnia in relation to the African-American community causes Scout to realize for the first time that Cal actually continues to exist when she’s not at the Finch house.

Calpurnia shows honor or chivalry by showing the children that chivalry doesn't mean always beeing perfect or doing what is perfect but rather stepping into others shoes and doing what is right by them not you. wether doing right by a group or a single person. However this idea is flawed as you see later on in the book during the trial. Boo - Arthur Radley After the Tom Robinson trial, Jem and Scout start to have a different understanding of Boo Radley.

“Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time... it's because he wants to stay inside." (23.117)

Having seen a sample of the horrible things their fellow townspeople can do, choosing to stay out of the mess of humanity doesn’t seem like such a strange choice.
When Boo finally does come out, he has a good reason: Bob Ewell is trying to murder the Finch kids. No one sees what happens in the scuffle, but at the end of it, Ewell is dead and Boo is carrying an unconscious Jem to the Finch house. Finally faced with Boo, Scout doesn’t even recognize him: after all, she’s never seen him before, except in her dreams.

While Tate insists that Ewell fell on his own knife, he also indirectly implies that Boo stabbed the man on purpose to defend the children. Since no one saw it (except, presumably, Boo), there’s no way to know for certain. Rather than drag Boo into court, Tate decides to “let the dead bury their dead” (30.60). However, Tate seems less concerned about the negative consequences for Boo than the positive ones.

“Know what'd happen then? All the ladies in Maycomb includin' my wife'd be knocking on his door bringing angel food cakes. To my way of thinkin', Mr. Finch, taking the one man who's done you and this town a great service an' draggin' him with his shy ways into the limelight – to me, that's a sin. It's a sin and I'm not about to have it on my head. If it was any other man, it'd be different. But not this man, Mr. Finch." (30.62)

For Boo, being the center of attention, even good attention, would be horrible. Even Scout, who’s known the real Boo for less than an hour, gets it: "Well, it'd be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?" (30.68). Boo causes even the total-equality-under-the-law Atticus to think that sometimes a little inequality is what’s really fair.
The bonds that hold a community together can be more than just social ones. Tom Robinson As Tom presents himself, however, he’s a good guy who was just trying to help out a fellow human being in need. The only feelings he has for Mayella are compassion and pity, but it seems even those aren’t acceptable either. Tom feels sorry for Mayella as one human being for another, but Mr. Gilmer and others can only see a black man feeling sorry for a white woman, suggesting the uncomfortable-for-them idea that white skin doesn’t make a person automatically better off than anyone whose skin is black.

"You're a mighty good fellow, it seems – did all this for not one penny?"
"Yes, suh. I felt right sorry for her, she seemed to try more'n the rest of 'em-"
"You felt sorry for her, you felt sorry for her?" Mr. Gilmer seemed ready to rise to the ceiling.
The witness realized his mistake and shifted uncomfortably in the chair. But the damage was done. Below us, nobody liked Tom Robinson's answer. Mr. Gilmer paused a long time to let it sink in. (19.124-127)
Robert E Lee Ewell Bob Ewell is the current head of a family that has been “the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations” (3.93). Considered human trash by the Maycomb community, the Ewells live in a shotgun shack out by the dump. Ewell has no ambition to improve his life, or the lives of his eight motherless children; instead, he spends his welfare checks on whiskey and has the local landowners turn a blind eye to his poaching activities out of pity for his hungry children. On the one hand, Bob seems an object of pity in that he was doomed from the moment he was born an Ewell, but on the other, he’s such an obnoxious and mean character that it’s hard to feel sorry for him. While the town’s view that he’s just an Ewell, and Ewells are trash, is their way of making sense of his behavior, it also makes it easy for the town to avoid responsibility for trying to help him or his children: no point in offering any aid to someone who’s not going to change. Aunt Alexandria Maudie Atkinson Miss Maudie is part of the world where “fragrant ladies rocked slowly, fanned gently, and drank cool water” (24.53) that Scout both desires and fears, but this rose never lets others forget her thorns. Unlike Miss Stephanie and Mrs. Dubose, however, Miss Maudie uses her sharp tongue to counter meanness rather than to perpetrate it. When Miss Stephanie tries to spread tales of Boo’s fearsomeness, Miss Maudie doesn’t just refuse to listen, or even just smile and nod and forget.

"Stephanie Crawford even told me once she woke up in the middle of the night and found him looking in the window at her. I said what did you do, Stephanie, move over in the bed and make room for him? That shut her up a while." (5.48) Judge John Taylor He is a just man who wants to try and give tom a fair trial and keeps any and all of his predjudice out of the court throughout the trial asking for seemly behavior from everyone, Dolphus Raymond Mr. Raymond is a borderline figure who confuses Maycomb’s neat social and racial categories. In the strictly segregated crowds outside the courthouse, he sits with the African-Americans, and Jem tells Scout and Dill that he’s had several children with an African-American woman – despite being from an old, rich family. Or perhaps it’s being from an old, rich family that allows him to live how he likes without worrying about what other people think.
people have to make in order to live in communities where they don’t quite fit in.
Later, Scout and Dill find out that Mr. Raymond does care about what other people think, but not in the way they expected. His paper bag turns out to be hiding not whisky but Coke, and his constant drunkenness is a put-on. He explains to the kids why he does it: “When I come to town, […] if I weave a little and drink out of this sack, folks can say Dolphus Raymond's in the clutches of whiskey – that's why he won't change his ways. He can't help himself, that's why he lives the way he does” (20.15). Like Calpurnia’s speaking one language at home with the Finches and another at the African-American Church, Mr. Raymond’s double life shows Scout the compromises Walter Cunningham Senior Mr. Cunningham is the father of Walter Cunningham, Scout’s classmate. He’s also a client of Atticus’s, and pays Atticus for his services in goods rather than money, because that’s all he can afford. In the eyes of Maycomb, the Cunninghams are a step below the townspeople (they’re poor farmers), but a step above the Ewells (they proudly eke out enough to survive from the land rather than going on welfare).
Mr. Cunningham, along with others like him, is part of the mob that tries to lynch Tom Robinson the night before the trial, putting him on the side of regressive and prejudiced values. When Scout talks to him about his son, however, he turns back and takes the rest of the mob with him. At the trial, Mr. Cunningham’s double first cousin is the only one willing to acquit Tom. Mr. Cunningham and his family suggest that at least some kinds of discrimination and violence come out of ignorance, and that experience can open eyes and change minds – at least sometimes.
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