What are two humorous events in To Kill A Mockingbird chapters 1-3?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Humor is often present in events that are funny to the person who is not a part of them.  In To Kill a Mockingbird chapters 1-3, three humorous events are the entrance of Dill, and Scout’s first day of school.

First of all, Lee often uses humor when introducing Maycomb and its characters to us.  The entrance of Dill is quite memorable.

We went to the wire fence to see if there was a puppy- Miss Rachel's rat terrier was expecting- instead we found someone sitting looking at us. Sitting down, he wasn't much higher than the collards. (ch 1)

Most of the descriptions of Dill are humorous.  He is larger than life, even though he is described as small.  When we first meet him here, the children think he is a puppy.  He introduces himself with his big name “Charles Baker Harris” and tells them he can read.  Jem is not amused, because Dill is seven years old and should be reading.  Dill’s hair is described as “stuck to his head like duckfluff” and he tells the story of how he won a beautiful child contest and he went to the movies twenty times with the money.

A second humorous event is Scout’s first day of school.  The teacher, Miss Caroline, is completely clueless.  She “looked and smelled like a peppermint drop” (ch 2), and we are first introduced to her when Scout says that she had already been punished before lunch on her first day of her first year of school.  When she is introduced, the children are mildly suspicious.

I am from North Alabama, from Winston County." The class murmured apprehensively, should she prove to harbor her share of the peculiarities indigenous to that region.  (ch 2)

The matter of fact dry wit with which the adult narrator describes Scout’s misadventures can only make the reader chuckle.  Miss Caroline reads a story about cats, and Scout notes that the class has no imagination.  She screams when she finds lice on a child’s head, and the older boys try to protect her.  On top of this, several of the children have repeated first grade and are there to keep order.  By lunchtime, Scout is rubbing Walter Cunningham’s nose in the dirt for getting her in trouble when she tried to explain why he wouldn’t take a quarter.

All of the humorous events in the story point us to hidden truths.  One of the reasons Dill is so funnily odd is that he is terribly lonely, since his family hoists him off all of the time.  Scout’s first day of school indicates larger class and cultural differences which will be key to the story later.  Lee deftly uses humor to give us crucial information.


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