In To Kill a Mockingbird, Chuck Little says, "Yessum," while talking about a head louse. What does this mean and what is the origin?

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troutmiller | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Little Chuck Little is one of the minor characters whom the reader can really enjoy--even though his character is only in just a few pages of the whole text.

Chuck is one of the students who fits oddly into the social classes.  He is poor like the Cunninghams, and he doesn't know "where his next meal was coming from." But unlike the Ewell family, he has manners.  He is very polite to Miss Caroline, offering her help back to the front of the room after her "cootie" incident, and he even offers to get her a cool glass of water.  With these manners, he also addresses her as "Ma'am."  So when he says, "Yessum, he's alive" he is saying Yes, Ma'am.  This spelling just gives the story its own southern slang style.  As the chapters progress, there will be plenty of more examples to give the reader auditory imagery with both slang and allusions to the past.  Tom Robinson will show his own personality through his slang/speech as well.

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