To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 16 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
"Well how do you know we ain't Negroes?"
"Uncle Jack Finch says we really don't know. He says as far as he can trace back the Finches we ain't, but for all he knows we mighta come straight out of Ethiopia durin' the Old Testament."
"Well if we came out durin' the Old Testament it's too long ago to matter."
"That's what I thought," said Jem, "but around here once you have a drop of Negro blood, that makes you all black." (16.78-81)
Jem and Scout here try to figure out how society divides people up into races, and what happens when those divisions break down. As kids who don't yet simply accept the existing system as the Way Things Are Just Because, they can see that the "one-drop rule" doesn't really work unless the origin of every drop of a person's blood (or every gene in their DNA, to update their science) can be accounted for, and why is one drop of black blood able to overwhelm several gallons of white blood, anyway? And how can blood have a racial identity? Oof. Someone pass the Tylenol.
"You goin' to court this morning?" asked Jem. […]
"I am not. 't's morbid, watching a poor devil on trial for his life. Look at all those folks, it's like a Roman carnival."
"They hafta try him in public, Miss Maudie," I said. "Wouldn't be right if they didn't."
"I'm quite aware of that," she said. "Just because it's public, I don't have to go, do I?" (16.40-48)
This is one reason that courtroom cameras are controversial: making trials public is one way of guaranteeing that they're fair (not that it worked in this case), but it also turns the whole thing into a circus.