Posted in Film

Greetings

A coupla years ago, it became fashionable to say “Hey” instead of “Hi.”

I always felt self-conscious saying “Hey.” I’m not from the south. I’m not in my 20’s. I feel good saying, “Hi!”

When I hear “Hey” I think of this scene from To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout has just spotted Mr. Cunningham standing with the lynch-mob-in-waiting.

Scout: I said, ‘Hey,’ Mr. Cunningham. How’s your entailment getting along?
[He turns and looks away]
Scout: Don’t you remember me, Mr. Cunningham? I’m Jean Louise Finch. You brought us some hickory nuts one early morning, remember? We had a talk. I went and got my daddy to come out and thank you. I go to school with your boy. I go to school with Walter; he’s a nice boy. Tell him ‘hey’ for me, won’t you? You know something, Mr. Cunningham, entailments are bad. Entailments…
[She suddenly becomes self-conscious]
Scout: Atticus, I was just saying to Mr. Cunningham that entailments were bad but not to worry. Takes a long time sometimes…
[to the men who are staring up at her]
Scout: What’s the matter? I sure meant no harm, Mr. Cunningham.

What’s a entailment? Courtesy of To Kill a Mockingbird: A Student Survival Guide:

entailment (n.): a legal situation regarding the use of inherited property.

Hmm. That doesn’t tell me much.

*Later*

Okay, I’ve been digging around for 20 minutes trying to find a better definition of entailment and I can’t. From context, it seems like Mr. Cunningham borrowed money against his land and is now trying to eke some cash crops out of it so he can pay back the lender.

In any case, I love this scene because Scout effectively dissipates the mob through southern-bred good manners (drilled into her by Calpurnia) and innocence. The men, who had ostensibly planned to break into the jail and kill Tom Robinson, are turned back by a little girl who not only recognizes one of them but expresses empathy on the sore subject of trying to make a living. She’s a short adult—she’s an angel.

At the end of the scene, Mr. Cunningham leans down to Scout and says, “I’ll tell him you say hey, little lady.”

UPDATE: Pa Kettle was nice enough to provide info on what the heck an entailment is in the comments. . . Copied here for your legal betterment:

Per Black’s Law Dictionary:

“Entailment. An interference with and curtailment of the ordinary rules pertaining to devolution by inheritance; a limitation and direction by which property is to descend different[ly] from the course which it would take if the creator of the entailment — grantor or testator — had been content that the estate should devolve in regular and general succession to heirs at law in the statutory order of precedence and sequence.”

So, as an example, let’s say I have $30 and three sons, the oldest of whom has one daughter, and no other living relatives. Upon my death, the laws of intestacy would (generally) hold that each of my three sons would receive $10 each. However, I could entail the funds in my will, directing that the the eldest son’s share go to my granddaughter instead.

Okay, I think I get it. I still would like to know if this was common in the south at that time, or somehow related to the depression. Exactly why is this entailment a burden to Mr. Cunningham? Are we to think he had a falling out with his daddy and that’s why he got stuck with the entailment? Scout’s comments seem to imply that it is an ongoing situation.

Author:

This is a personal blog. Expect a potpourri of stuff.

4 thoughts on “Greetings

  1. You should have just emailed me.

    Per Black’s Law Dictionary:

    “Entailment. An interference with and curtailment of the ordinary rules pertaining to devolution by inheritance; a limitation and direction by which property is to descend different[ly] from the course which it would take if the creator of the entailment — grantor or testator — had been content that the estate should devolve in regular and general succession to heirs at law in the statutory order of precedence and sequence.”

    So, as an example, let’s say I have $30 and three sons, the oldest of whom has one daughter, and no other living relatives. Upon my death, the laws of intestacy would (generally) hold that each of my three sons would receive $10 each. However, I could entail the funds in my will, directing that the the eldest son’s share go to my granddaughter instead.

    Easy!

  2. Wow. I’ve always heard that piece of dialog differently. I heard “entanglement” not entailment.

    Hey, Ms. Blather. You remind me of Marcia Gay Hardin.

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