Why does Miss Caroline not understand Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird?
- Atticus tells Scout, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (p.35) Imagine that you are Miss Caroline, and retell the first day at school (ch 2 & 3) from her point of view.
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Miss Caroline is a young teacher who is new to Maycomb. She does not understand the town’s customs and traditions, and she does not know what to do with a precocious child like Scout.
Miss Caroline is “no more than twenty-one” and from Winston County, which makes the children apprehensive because people in Maycomb are generally suspicious of people from there because Winston County seceded from Alabama when Alabama seceded from the Union in the Civil War.
Miss Caroline also does not seem to understand how the children in Maycomb are raised. Most are poor. Scout comments that Miss Caroline’s choice to read a story about talking cats was not a wise one.
Miss Caroline seemed unaware that the ragged, denim-shirted and floursack-skirted first grade, most of whom had chopped cotton and fed hogs from the time they were able to walk, were immune to imaginative literature. (ch 2)
Miss Caroline also does not understand that Scout is smart and already knows how to read. Miss Caroline accuses her of being taught by her father, which offends Scout. She also does not listen when Scout tries to explain why Walter Cunningham won’t borrow a quarter. If she had listened, she might have realized that Scout was not a trouble maker, she was just trying to help.
Since Miss Caroline is not from Maycomb and is new to teaching, she does not realize that she should be trying to put herself in their shoes. If she had stopped to think about who the first grade students were and where they came from, she would try to teach them more practical lessons and be sympathetic to Walter’s pride.
"That's okay, ma'am, you'll get to know all the county folks after a while. The Cunninghams never took anything they can't pay back-no church baskets and no scrip stamps. They never took anything off of anybody, they get along on what they have. They don't have much, but they get along on it." (ch 2)
Miss Caroline is annoyed, and punishes Scout.
If she had understand that Scout was not being rude, but just did not understand what she had done wrong in already knowing how to read, she might have had someone who could introduce her to the customs and traditions of Maycomb.
Miss Caroline is the perfect outsider for the reader to appreciate how set in its ways Maycomb is. Through her, we are introduced to Maycomb’s idiosyncrasies since as a reader, we do not know them either. We learn right alongside Miss Caroline, but we also judge her. We feel that we would have tried to understand and be more appreciative.
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