In To Kill a Mockingbird, what is Miss Maudie’s reaction to the disaster in Chapter 8?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Miss Maudie is truly a strong, wise, and wonderful woman, and how she reacts to the loss of her house to fire shows these character traits. Maudie's house burns to the ground, despite attempts to save it. The morning after the fire, Jem and Scout go across the street to find Maudie "staring at the smoking black hole in her yard." Atticus knows that this is not the time to interrupt Maudie, and he leads his children home. Maudie has suffered the sudden loss of her home and her belongings; she needs time to accept the reality of what has happened.

Later, Jem and Scout go back to see Maudie, finding her in the backyard, "gazing at her frozen charred azaleas," another loss for her since she loved her flowers so much. The children tell her how sorry they are for what has happened, and they are amazed at her reaction:

Miss Maudie looked around, and the shadow of her old grin crossed her face. "Always wanted a smaller house, Jem Finch. Gives me more yard. Just think, I'll have more room for my azaleas now!"

When Scout notes that Maudie "ain't grievin'," Miss Maudie jokes that she had always hated "that old cow barn," and had thought about burning it down herself, "except they'd lock me up." Maudie has always understood Jem and Scout, and she understands their genuine concern for her:

Don't you worry about me, Jean Louise Finch. There are ways of doing things you don't know about.

Maudie then talks about how she can build a smaller house, take in boarders, and "have the finest yard in Alabama." Maudie's house was all that she owned in the world, but she chooses to look to the future in a practical and optimistic way. Most of all, she is unselfishly concerned with relieving the children's worries and sadness for her, thinking about their feelings instead of burdening them with any part of the sense of loss she surely feels. 

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