In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, what happens to Miss Maudie? How does she feel about it?

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tinandan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Maudie's house burns down in Chapter Eight of To Kill A Mockingbird.  

It was an unusually cold winter in Maycomb County, and many people lit fires in their fireplaces when most years they didn't need to.  Miss Maudie's house fire may have been caused by "the flue in the kitchen. [She] kept a fire in there last night for [her] potted plants."  

Miss Maudie's entire house burns down.  The Maycomb fire truck won't start in the unusual cold and has to be pushed to her house.  Then, when it does arrive, the fire hose bursts.  Some of Miss Maudie's furniture is saved by the men of the town, but her house and her beloved yard are completely destroyed. 

Presumably Miss Maudie feels grief and loss, but she does not show it.  A true Southern lady, she steadfastly looks on the bright side.  

"Always wanted a smaller house, Jem Finch.  Gives me more yard.  Just think, I'll have more room for my azaleas now!  ... Grieving, child?  Why, I hated that old cow barn.  Thought of settin' fire to it a hundred times myself, except they'd lock me up."  

Miss Maudie's insistence that she "hated" the old house, and actually welcomes this turn of events, perhaps shades into pride.  But it is probably also an effort to spare other people, especially the children, the burden of seeing her grieve.  Even in her crisis, she is still selfless.  

Miss Maudie puzzled me.  With most of her possessions gone and her beloved yard a shambles, she still took a lively and cordial interest in Jem's and my affairs.  

"Only thing I worried about last night was all the danger and commotion it caused.  This whole neighborhood could have gone up." 

Though perhaps erring a bit too much on the side of keeping up a brave face, Miss Maudie is nevertheless a great example for the children of strength in adversity. 

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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