In To Kill a Mockingbird, what was the purpose of the Halloween pageant? What practical joke had persuaded the grown ups to have an organized event?  

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parkerlee's profile pic

parkerlee | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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The Halloween pageant's theme was not along its usual lines (witches, ghosts, etc...) but that year it was to show the diversity of agricultural products from the region. This is why Scout was attributed the "role" of a ham.

As for the practical joke you mentioned, I suppose you mean the prank where some neighbourhood children hid some furniture belonging to two old ladies, Tutti and Frutt Barber.

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Halloween in the United States was generally a time or practical jokers to play pranks on people. Trick-or-Treating was created as a way to control children on that night so they wouldn't have a desire to vandalize or disrupt the peace of their communities. Rather than be tricked by children, adults started making baked goods and candies to give out to soften the little tricksters' hearts. But in 1930s Maycomb, playing tricks was still on the agenda. Scout comically explains as follows:

"Halloween in Maycomb was a completely unorganized affair. Each child did what he wanted to do, with assistance from other children if there was anything to be moved, such as placing a light buggy on top of the livery stable. But parents thought things went too far last year, when the peace of Miss Tutti and Miss Fruitti was shattered" (251).

Scout recounts that a bunch of children in the community took advantage of the old sisters' lack of hearing abilities to move all of their furniture to their basement on Halloween night. People in Maycomb never locked their doors, so children were able to enter the home without any effort. The children also slipped into the home without wearing shoes because that was a normal condition. When the poor old women called the cops in the morning, they not only said they heard the burglars during the night, but they also demanded that the dogs be let loose to find the hoodlums. Every child in the community wore their shoes while the dogs were out so they wouldn't be discovered and no one was ever brought to justice. Needless to say, the adults decided to organize a Halloween pageant to keep kids busy so poor little old ladies would not be the brunt of any more jokes. 

The master of ceremonies for the Halloween pageant is Mrs. Merriweather who had decided to call it "Maycomb County: Ad Astra Per Aspera" (252). Therefore, children were dressed up as agricultural products that represent the county and Scout has to be a ham.

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kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Chapter 27 of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout explains that, in the past, the town of Maycomb made no effort to organize Halloween activities for the children, leaving them to their own devices.  As Lee’s narrator, Scout, explains, the change from previous years to an organized event this year was precipitated by a practical joke played at the expense of two elderly, deaf women:

“The second change in Maycomb since last year was not one of national significance. Until then, Halloween in Maycomb was a completely unorganized affair. Each child did what he wanted to do, with assistance from other children if there was anything to be moved, such as placing a light buggy on top of the livery stable. But parents thought things went too far last year, when the peace of Miss Tutti and Miss Frutti was shattered. . .some wicked children had waited until the Misses Barber were thoroughly asleep, slipped into their living room (nobody but the Radleys locked up at night), stealthily made away with every stick of furniture therein, and hid it in the cellar.”

In an effort at preventing a recurrence of such mischief, the school organized a play produced for the parents with the children each dressed-up to look like agricultural products.  Again, as Scout describes the scene:

 “Mrs. Grace Merriweather had composed an original pageant entitled Maycomb County: Ad Astra Per Aspera, and I was to be a ham. She thought it would be adorable if some of the children were costumed to represent the county’s agricultural products . . .”

So, the practical joke that resulted in an organized pageant involved some children breaking into Tutti and Frutti Barber’s home and moving their furniture into the basement.  The women were deaf, so didn’t hear to the sounds emanating from their living room, as the juvenile delinquents went about executing their plan at these two elderly women’s expense.

applejacker's profile pic

applejacker | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

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No, the pageant showed diversity, like parkerlee said. scout played the role of the Ham, and the other children played other food. this shows and recognizes that all of the children are different and unique.

vicky721's profile pic

vicky721 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

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So pretty much the purpose of the Halloween pageant was to control the children? And the practical joke was hiding the furniture correct?

gianna14's profile pic

gianna14 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

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yes i think it was when some of the neighbourhood children hid some furniture belonging to two old ladies, Tutti and Frutt Barber.

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