How does Harper Lee describe the school and Scout's classmates?

1 Answer

gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Harper Lee describes the school as an impediment to learning. When Scout displays her ability to read at such a young age, Miss Caroline scolds her and tells her to stop reading with her father. Instead of facilitating Scout's ability and interest in reading, her teacher reprimands her for not approaching it the "school's way." Scout is also discouraged from writing, which is supposed to take place in 3rd grade, according to Miss Caroline. Harper Lee portrays the education system as mundane, rigid, and even hypocritical. Scout's 3rd grade teacher, Miss Gates, lectures about the ills of Nazi Germany and the persecution of the Jews, and says, "Over here we don't believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced." (Lee 329) Miss Gates displays her hypocritical nature by overlooking the fact that the majority of Maycomb's community members are prejudiced towards African Americans.

Scout's classmates are described as ragged, uninterested country children who spend the majority of their time on the farm. When Miss Caroline prints the alphabet on the board, Scout states that everybody was familiar with it because "most of the first grade had failed it last year." (Lee 22) Characters such as Walter Cunningham Jr., Cecil Jacobs, and Little Chuck Little speak in country dialects and seem more interested in working on the farm than learning in the classroom. This is evident when Little Chuck Little begins his "current events" speech by talking about an Uncle Natchell advertisement. Little Chuck Little confused this fertilization product advertisement with a "current event." With the exception of Burris Ewell, Scout's classmates are caring, respectful individuals. When Miss Caroline gets her feelings hurt, the entire class attempts to console her.