To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 26 Summary

Instructor: Abigail Walker

Abigail has taught writing and literature at various universities. She has an M.A. In literature from American University and an M.F.A. in English from The University of Iowa.

In Chapter 26 of ''To Kill a Mockingbird'', Scout returns to school and learns about hypocrisy. Her brother Jem has been presented with a similar lesson about justice at the trial, but he remains unable to confront the powerful implications of what he has learned.

Fantasies about Boo and a Warning from Atticus

Scout is a third-grader and Jem a seventh-grader when school begins again. Although their schedules are now different, Scout and Jem still walk to school together--and they still pass Boo Radley's house each morning. No longer afraid of Radley's home, Scout hopes for a glimpse of Boo Radley. She imagines seeing him outside and how he might greet her: 'Evening, Jean Louise,' he might address her, 'right pretty spell we're having, isn't it?' Scout figures, though, that Boo is more likely to go out at night, in the moonlight, when no one can see him.

One day Scout mentions her fantasies about Boo to Atticus. He is upset. Atticus tells her he does not want her looking for Boo, and he warns Scout about going onto his property. Boo's brother Nathan is a good shot, who does not hesitate to use his gun. Scout says nothing more about Boo. After all, with the Tom Robinson trial, the Finches have already had enough to worry about this year. Something does puzzle Scout, though: despite Atticus's unpopular defense of Tom, he has been re-elected again to the legislature, leading Scout to conclude that people are indeed strange.

Prejudice and Democracy in the Classroom

Scout decides to avoid people for a while. She soon discovers, though, that withdrawing is not feasible--at least not during her weekly 'Current Events' class, during which each student is responsible for bringing in an article and sharing it. Unfortunately, however, many of Scout's classmates are from rural areas lacking access to good newspapers that provide accurate information. Consequently, some of the rural children have trouble understanding what they read.

One child named Cecil, for example, tries to present an article about Hitler but has trouble explaining it. With the help of the teacher, Miss Gates, Cecil finally makes the points that Hitler has begun 'to round up all the half-Jews too and he wants to register 'em in case they might wanta cause him any trouble and I think this is a bad thing and that's my current event.'

When another child wants to know how Hitler can imprison people, Miss Gates responds, 'Hitler is the government.' She then writes 'DEMOCRACY' on the board, asking what the word means. Scout answers, 'Equal rights for all, special privileges for none.' After praising Scout, Miss Gates explains how destructive prejudice is, how Hitler wants to destroy religion, and how much Jewish people have contributed to world culture. 'Well I don't know for certain,' Cecil chimes in 'they're supposed to change money or somethin', but that ain't no cause to persecute 'em. They're white, ain't they?' Hearing this, Miss Gates decides it is time to begin her arithmetic lesson.

Scout Learns About Hatred and Hypocrisy

After school, Scout asks Atticus if hating Hitler is acceptable. Atticus tells her it is not. Feeling that Atticus might not be the best person to talk to about her concerns, Scout goes into Jem's room. Scout asks him if Miss Gates is a good person. When he tells Scout he thinks she is nice, Scout explains to Jem that during Tom's trial she heard Miss Gates making prejudiced statements against African Americans. Scout, unable to reconcile Miss Gates's statements in class with what she said during the trial, asks, 'Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home--'

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