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To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 2 Summary

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  • 0:02 Scout Goes to School
  • 1:17 Isn't That Ironic?
  • 2:32 Time for Lunch
  • 3:28 Are We Poor?
  • 4:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ann Morris

Ann has taught secondary language arts and has a master's degree in journalism.

In the first chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird, we met the narrator, Scout, and learned that she lives in Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression. In chapter two, we will follow Scout as she enters the exciting and sometimes baffling world of school.

Scout Goes to School

Have you ever noticed that things don't always make sense? Maybe you were happy to give someone good news, but he or she did not react in the way you expected. Or maybe you worked especially hard in a math class and yet got a D. Well, in chapter two of To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Scout steps into a world that turn out to make little sense to her: the world of school.

After Dill returns to his home in Meridian, Mississippi, in early September, Scout begins first grade. She is six years old and has been looking forward to the first day of school for a long time. This is Scout's first day of school, and she is in the first grade. We can infer, or figure out, that there is no kindergarten in Scout's school.

Scout's teacher, Miss Caroline Fisher, is young and pretty. Scout uses a simile, or a comparison between two unlike things, to describe the teacher. She says, 'She looked and smelled like a peppermint drop.' But we know things are not going to go as well as Scout hopes because her author, Harper Lee, foreshadows the events of the day when she has her narrator, Scout, tell us that the teacher punishes her later that morning. Foreshadowing is a technique authors use to give us clues about what is coming in the text. Poor Scout. Good things are not coming.

Isn't That Ironic?

After boring the students with a story about talking cats, Miss Caroline introduces the alphabet. At her teacher's request, Scout reads the letters flawlessly and then proceeds to read a children's book aloud. Lee uses the literary technique of irony to emphasize the absurdity of Miss Caroline's reaction. It is ironic, or opposite of what we expect, that Miss Caroline expresses annoyance about Scout's ability to read. The teacher even goes so far as to tell Scout to stop learning to read at home. Ridiculous! Scout assures the teacher that her father, Atticus, hasn't taught her anything, but Miss Caroline refuses to believe her. So poor Scout is left wondering why she is in trouble at school for learning.

To make matters worse, Miss Caroline catches Scout writing in class (in cursive, no less) and insists that Atticus stop teaching her. Scout lets us know that Calpurnia, not Atticus, is the guilty party when it comes to writing. Calpurnia has been teaching Scout to write on rainy days. Ironically, Miss Caroline says, 'We don't write in the first grade, we print. You won't learn to write until you're in the third grade.'

It seems clear that Harper Lee had some real concerns about the public school system of her day. Like so many other writers, Lee illustrated some illogical practices in her novel.

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