In To Kill a Mockingbird, how does Burris respond to being sent home by Miss Caroline?

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

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Burris Ewell's confrontation with Miss Caroline on the first day of school is dramatic and very revealing of his character. When Miss Caroline finds lice in the boy's hair, she tells him he must go home and treat them with lye soap and kerosene before returning to school. She also instructs him to take a bath before coming back. Burris laughs at her. She isn't sending him home, he says, because he was getting ready to leave anyway.

After hearing her class explain the circumstances of Burris's life at home, Miss Caroline asks the boy to sit back down. He defies her: "You try and make me, missus." Miss Caroline then tells Burris again to go home, threatening to call the principal if he refuses. "I'll have to report this anyway," she says. Burris responds with hateful, vulgar disdain:

The boy snorted and slouched leisurely to the door.

Safely out of range, he turned and shouted: "Report and be damned to ye! Ain't no snot-nosed slut of a schoolteacher ever born c'n make me do nothin'! You ain't makin' me go nowhere, missus. You just remember that, you ain't makin' me go nowhere!"

He waited until he was sure she was crying, then he shuffled out of the building.

Burris Ewell is indeed "a mean one, a hard-down mean one," as Little Chuck Little says to Miss Caroline.

 

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