The word appears 30 times.
This book is about racism. The word HAS to be used in this book by the characters who are the racists. Take away the word, and you may as well burn the book. Still, it's hard to hear in some of the places it's used. These people, the racists, are barely human, and as proved by the end of the book, don't deserve the consideration commonly given to civilized people.
(Talking about ghosts that wander the night)
That keeps 'em from wrapping around you--"
"Don't you believe a word he says, Dill." I said. "Calpurnia says that's nigger-talk."
"Mr. Radley shot at a Negro in his collard patch."
"Oh. Did he hit him?"
"No," said Miss Stephanie. "Shot in the air. Scared him pale, though. Says if anybody sees a white nigger around, that's the one. Says he's got another barrel waitin' for the next sound he hears in that patch, an' next time he won't aim hogh, be it dog, nigger, or --- Jem FINCH!"
"Ma'am?" asked Jem.
Atticus spoke. "Where're your pants, son?"
Jem scooped up an armful of dirt, patted it into a mound on which he added another load, and another until he had constructed a torso.
"Jem, I ain't never heard of a nigger snowman." I said.
"He won't be black long," he grunted.
Cecil Hacomds made me forget. He had announced in the school yard the day before that Scout Finch's daddy defended niggers. I denied it, but told Jem.
"Whatt'd he mean sayin' that?" I asked
"Nothing," Jem said. "Ask Atticus, he'll tell you."
"Do you defend niggers, Atticus?" I asked him that evening.
"Of course I do. Don't say nigger, Scout. That's common."
But I was worrying another bone. "Do all lawyers defend n-Negroes, Atticus?"
"Of course they do, Scout."
"Then why did Cecil say you defended niggers? He made it sound like you were runnin' a still."
Atticus sighed. "I'm simply defending a Negro - his name's Tom Robinson.
With this in mind, I faced Cecil Jacobs in the schoolyard next day: "You gonna take that back, boy?"
"You gotta make me first!" he yelled. "My folks said your daddy was a disgrace an' that nigger ought to hand from the water-tank!"
"If Uncle Atticus lets you run around with stray dogs, that's his business, like Grandma says, so it ain't your fault. I guess it ain't your fault if Uncle Atticus is a nigger-lover besides, but I'm here to tell you it certainly does mortify the rest of the family -"
"Francis, what the hell do you mean?"
"Just what I said. Grandma says it's bad enough he lets you all run wild, but now he's turned out a nigger-lover we'll never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb again. He's ruinin' the family, that's what he's doing."
Francis rose and sprinted down the catwalk to the old kitchen. At a safe distance he called, "He's nothin' but a nigger lover!"
"He is not!" I roared. "I don't know what you're talkin' about, but you better cut it out this read hot minute!"
I leaped off the steps and ran down the catwalk. It was easy to collar Francis. I said take it back quick.
Francis jerked loose and sped into the old kitchen. "Nigger-lover!" he yelled
When stalking one's prey, it is best to take one's time.
"I ain't botherin' you," I said
Francis looked at me carefully, concluded that I had been sufficiently subdued and crooned softly, "Nigger-lover..."
This time I split my knuckle to the bone on his front teeth.
Uncle Jack scratched his head. "What was your side of it, Scout?"
"Francis called Atticus somethin', an' I wasn't about to take it off him."
"What did Francis call him?"
"A Nigger-lover. I ain't sure what it means, but the way Francis said it -- I tell you one thing right now, Uncle Jack, I'll be -- I swear before God if I'll sit there and let him say somethin' about Atticus."
"Come on, Scout," he whispered. "Don't pay any attention to her, just hold your head up high and be a gentleman."
But Mrs. Dubose held us: "Not only a Finch waiting on tables, but one in the courthouse lawing for niggers!"
Jem stiffend. Mrs. Dubose's shot had gone home and she knew it.
"Yes indeed, what has this world com to when a Finch goes against his raising? I'll tell you!" She put her hand to her mouth. When she drew it away, it trailed a long thread of saliva. "Your father's no better than the niggers and trash he works for!"
Jem was scarlet.
In later years, I 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-concious rectitude he had recently entered. Jem had problably stood as much guff about Atticus lawing for niggers as had I, and I took 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.
"Jem," he said, "are you responsible for this?"
"Why'd you do it?"
Jem said softly, "She said you lawed for niggers and trash."
"You did this because she said that?"
Jem's lips moved, but his "Yes, sir" was inaudible.
"Son, I have no doubt that you've been annoyed by your contemporaries about me lawing for niggers, as you say, but to do something like this to a sick old lady is inexcusable. I strongly advise you to go down and have a talk with Mrs. Dubose," said Atticus. "Come straight home aftward."
The next afternoon at Mrs. Dubose's was the same as the first, and so was the next, until gradually a patern emerged; everything would begin normally - that is, Mrs. Dubose would hound Jem for a while on her favorite subjects, her camellias and our father's nigger-loving propensities; se would grow increaslingly silent, then go away from us. The alarm clock would ring, Jessie would shoo us out, and the rest of the day was ours.
"Atticus" I said one evening, "what exactly is a nigger-lover?"
Atticus's face was grave. "Has somebody been calling you that?"
"No sir, Mrs. Dubose calls you that. She warms up every afternoon calling you that. Francis called me that last Christmas, that's where I first heard it."
"Is this the reason you jumped on him?" asked Atticus.
"Then why are you asking me what it means?"
I tried to explain to Atticus that it wasn't so much what Francis said that had infuriated me as the way that he said it. "It was like he'd said snot-nose or somethin'."
"Scout," said Atticus, "nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don't meand anything - like snot-nose. It's hard to explain - ignorant, trashy people us when they think somebody's favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It's slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody."
"You aren't really a nigger-lover, then, are you?"
"I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody...
I felt Calpurnia's hand dig into my shoulder. "What you want, Lulu?" she asked, in tones I had never heard her use. She spoke quietly, contemptuously.
"I wants to know why you brinin' white chillum to a nigger church."
"They's my comp'ny," said Calpurnia. Again I thought her voice strange; she was talking like the rest of them.
"Yeah, an' I reckon you's comp'ny at the Finch house durin' the week."
A murmer ran through the crowd. "Don't you fret," Calpurnia whispered to me, the the roses on her hat trembled indignantly.
When Lula came up the pathway towards us Calpurnia said, "Stop right there, nigger."
That Calpurnia led a modest double life never dawned on me. The idea that she had a separate existance outside our household was a novel one, to say nothing of her having command of two languages.
"Cal," I asked, "why do you talk nigger-talk to the - to your folks whe you know it's not right?"
"Well, in the first place I'm black -"
"That doesn't mean you hafta talk that way when you know better," said Jem.
It stood on no lonely hill, gut was wedged between Tyndal's Hardware Store and The Maycomb Tribune office. The jail was Maycomb's only converstation piecy; its detractors said it looked like a Victorian privy; its supporters said it gave the town a good solid respectable look, and no stranger would ever suspect that is was full of niggers.
"Oh-h now, I wouldn't say that," said another. "Atticus Finch's a deep reader, a mighty deep reader."
"He reads all right, that's all he does." The club snickered.
"Lemme tell you somthin' now, Billy," a third said, "you know the court appointed him to defend this nigger."
"Yeah, but Atticus aims to defend him. That's what I don't like about it."
This was news, news that put a different light on things: Atticus had to, whether he wanted to or not.
"What night, sir?"
Mr. Tate said, "It was the night of November twenty-first. I was just leaving my office to go home wheh B - Mr. Ewell came in, very excited he was, and said get out to his house quick, some nigger'd raped his girl."
Mr. Ewell looked confusedly at the judge. "Well, Mayella was raisin' this holy racket so I dropped m'load and run as fast as I could but I run into th' fence, but when I got distangled I run up to th' window and I seen ==" Mr. Ewell's face grew scarlet. He stood up and pointed his finger at Tom Robbinson. "-- I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin' on my Mayella."
"Then what did you do?"
"Why, I run for Tate quick as I could. I knowed who it was, al right, lived down yonder in that nigger-nest, passed the house every day. Jedge, I've asked this county for fifteen year to clean out that nest down yonder, they're dangerous to live around 'sides devaluin' my properly --"
Tricking lawyers like Atticus Finch took advantage of him all the time with their tricking ways. He had told them what happened, he'd say it again and again - which he did. Nothing Atticus asked him after that shook his story, that he'd looked through the window, then ran the nigger off, then ran for the sherriff. Atticus finally dismissed him.
Mayella pointed to Tom Robbinson. "I'll have to ask you to be more specific, please," said Mr. Gilmer. "The reporter can't put down gestures very well."
"That'n yonder," she said. "Robinson."
"Then what happened?"
"I said come here, nigger, and bust up this chiffarobe for me, I gotta nickel for you.
"Didn't you ever ask him to come inside the fence before?"
She was prepared now. "I did not, I certainly did not."
"One did not's enough," said Atticus serenely. "You never asked him to do odd jobs for you before?"
"I mighta," conceded Mayella. "There was several niggers around."
"Cn you remember any other occasions?"
Suddenly Mayella became articulate. "I got somethin' to say," she said.
Atticus raised his head. "Do you want to tell us what happened?"
But she did not hear the compassion in his invitation. "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 want to 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--"
(Now Tom Robinson is on the stand) "Then what did she do?"
The witness swallowed hard. "She reached up an' kissed me 'side of th' face. She says she never kissed a grown man before an' she might as well kiss a nigger. She says what her papa do to her don't count. She says, 'Kiss me back, nigger.' I say Miss Mayella lemme outa here and' tried to run but she got her back to the door an' I'da had to push her.
"Mr. Finch, he were talkin' and lookin' at Miss Mayella."
"Then you ran?"
"I sho' did, suh."
"Why did you run?"
"I was scared, suh?"
"Why were you scared?"
"Mr. Finch, if you was a nigger like me, you'd be scared, too."
(Afer a disturbance in the court where a white man stands up and vouches for Tom Robbinson's good behaviour...) Judge Taylor told the reporter to expunge anything he happened to have written down after Mr. Finch if you were a nigger like me you'd be scared too, and told the jury to disregard the interruption. ... "Go ahead, Mr. Gilmer."
"You were given thirty days once for disorderly conduct, Robinson?" asked Mr. Gilmer.
"What'd the nigger look like when you got through with him?"
"He beat me, Mr. Gilmer."
"Yes, but you were convicted, weren't you?"
Atticus raised his head. "It was a misdemeanor and it's in the record, Judge." I thought he sounded tired.
"You're very candid about this, why did you run so fast?"
"I says I was scared, suh?"
"if you had a clear conscience, why were you scared?"
"Like I says before, it were'nt safe for any nigger to be in a -- fix like that."
"But you weren't in a fix -- you testified that you were resisting Miss Ewell. Were you so scared that she'd hurt you, you ran, a big buck like you?"
"No suh, I's scared I'd be in court, just like I am now."
"Scared of arrest, scared you'd have to face up to what you did?"
"No suh, scared I'd hafta face up to what I didn't do."
"Are you being impudent to me, boy?"
Mr. Ewell call him names wild horses could not bring her to repeat. Mr. Ewell was a veteran of an obscure war; that plus Atticus's peaceful reaction probably prompted him to inquire, "Too proud to fight, you nigger-lovin' bastard?" Miss Stephanie said Atticus said, "No, too old," put his hands in his pockets and strolled on.
Mycomb was interested by the news of Tom's death for perhaps two days; two days was enough for the information to spread through the county. "Did you hear about? . . . No? Well, they say he was runnin' fit to beat lightnin' . . . " To Maycomb, Tom's death was Typical. Typical of a nigger to cut and run. Typical nigger's mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he saw. Funny thing, Atticus Finch might've got him off scot free, but wait --? Hell no. You know how they are. Easy come, easy go. Just shows you, that Robinson boy was legally married, they say he kept himself clean, went to church and all that, but when it comes down to the line the veneer's mighty thin. nigger always comes out in 'em.
"First thing you can do, Ewell, is get your stinkin' carcass off my property. You're leanin' on it an' I can't afford fresh paint for it. Second thing you can do is stay away from my cook or I'll have you up for assault --"
"I ain't touched her, Link Deas, and ain't about to go with no nigger!"
"You don't have to touch her, all you have to do is make her afraid, an' if assault ain't enough to keep you locked up a while, I'll get you on the Ladies Law, so get outa my sight! If don't think I mean it, Just bother that girl again!"