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To Kill A Mockingbird: Novel Summary: Chapters 13-14

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Chapter 13: Atticus agrees to invite Aunt Alexandra to stay with them throughout the trial.  Alexandra, a genteel, proper lady spares no time in teaching Scout what she knows about the history of Maycomb's families.  She energetically points out that a caste system exists in Maycomb and that the Finch family sits atop that system.  Ironically, however, her stories reveal a great amount of inbreeding among all of Maycomb's families including the Finch's.  So how can a caste system based on genealogy exist when everyone is related to each other? If everyone is related how can one family have more status than another? Scout recognizes the convenience and hypocrisy in Alexandra's insistence on Finch supremacy.  Alexandra, however, seems perfectly satisfied with her position and urges Atticus to teach Jem and Scout how to act like a gentleman and a lady.  At first, Atticus agrees but quickly changes his mind.
Chapter 14: Jem and Scout argue about minding Aunt Alexandra.  Jem, having matured over the past two years, urges Scout to mind her manners and not to antagonize their aunt.  They argue until bedtime when, on their way to bed, Jem steps on something that seems to move.  Dill emerges and the children, surprised but happy, eagerly greet him.  Dill explains that he has run away from his family in Meridian because he doesn't get along with his new father.  Dill, prone to exaggeration, recites his narrative: "having been bound in chains and left to die in the basement.by his new father, who disliked him, and secretly kept alive on raw field peas by a passing farmer who heard his cries, Dill worked himself free by pulling the chains from the wall.  Sill in wrist manacles, he wandered two miles out of Meridian where he discovered a small animal show and immediately engaged to wash a camel." (150).  With the energy surrounding Dill's appearance subsided, the children retire to bed where Dill reveals the real reason why he left his family:
"I said why'd you run off? Was he really hateful like you said?"
"Didn't you build that boat like you wrote you were gonna?"
"He just said we would.  We never did."
I raised up on my elbow, facing Dill's outline.  "It's no reason to run off.  They don't get around to doin' what they say they're gonna do half the time."
"That wasn't it, he-they just wasn't interested in me" (153).
With Dill's description of his relationship with his family, the author offers, for the first time, a picture of family life other than that of the Finch family.  The juxtaposition is striking and the reader, along with Scout presumably, realize just how wonderful a father Atticus is and how fortunate Jem and Scout are to have him.

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