How does Miss Caroline contradict herself about the use of imagination in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Caroline contradicts herelf by reading the first grade a story and yet does not allow Scout to read.

The first grade teacher Miss Caroline begins the class by reading the kids a story about talking cats.

Miss Caroline seemed unaware that the ragged, denim-shirted and floursack-skirted first grade, most of whom had chopped cotton and fed hogs from the time they were able to walk, were immune to imaginative literature. (ch 2)

Miss Caroline does not understand Maycomb.  In fact, she seems upset when she realizes Scout can read and even write.  Offended by this, she listens dubiously to Scout’s description of the connection between Finch and “bullfinch” and how she learned to read because she just did.

"Let's not let our imaginations run away with us, dear," she said. "Now you tell your father not to teach you any more. It's best to begin reading with a fresh mind.” (ch 2)

The irony is that Scout really did learn how to read by reading.  Her father never intentionally taught her to read.  She grew up loving to read.  She did not realize reading was a bad thing until she got to school.

There is nothing at all wrong with Scout’s reading.  Miss Caroline is simply not prepared for such a precocious child.  Scout gets off on the wrong foot, and hates school from the beginning.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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