The Paradox of Democracy in the United States

The Assignment: write an analysis of a powerful quote from the text (To Kill A Mockingbird)

“Then Miss Gates said, ‘That’s the difference between America and Germany. We are a democracy and Germany is a dictatorship. Dictator-ship,’ she said. ‘Over here we don’t believe in prosecuting anybody.’” (Lee 281)

In Scout’s second grade class, the students became familiar with a current events article. Cecil Jacobs, one of Scout’s classmates, recounted an article about Hitler since World War II was just starting to begin. Miss Gates, Scout’s teacher was explaining the difference between Hitler’s Germany and the United States. Scout defined a democracy as “‘equal rights for all, special privileges for none’” (Lee 281) which Miss Gates declared America to be. However, at this time period, the segregation and discrimination of African Americans were still very common, contradicting what a democracy is. In fact, all of the white people in Maycomb had turned against Tom Robinson simply because Robinson was a colored man who was accused of raping a white girl. In the novel, what happened in class made Scout realize the subtleties of the world around her and the experience showed how she matured over time. Miss Gates talked about how everyone is equal in America when she was discriminating Tom Robinson in the previous weeks. Scout gained the insight that everything is not always what it seems. America seemed to be a democracy when people were still widely divided, and African Americans had fewer opportunities that whites did. Similarly, when Scout was younger, she viewed Boo Radley to be a monster of a man and as she grew older, she realized that Arthur Radley was just a person.


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