Scout describes Burris Wells as the "filthiest human I had ever seen."
On her first day of school, Scout has several experiences which she certainly has not anticipated. One of these is her introduction to Burris Ewell, who Scout first describes as "hulking." His presence frightens Miss Caroline, Scout's teacher, not so much because he is larger than the other children, but because she has seen lice moving in his hair.
After Chuck Little calms Scout's teacher, Miss Caroline instructs Burris to wash his hair with lye and treat his scalp with kerosene, not realizing that neither item is probably available at the Ewell home. When Burris stands, Miss Caroline notices how dirty he is. Scout describes him as having a grey neck, hands that appear rusty with fingernails black with dirt, and a face with only a "fist-sized clean space" on it. Shocked by this physical condition, Miss Caroline urges him to bathe before returning to school the next day.
The boy laughed rudely. "You ain't sendin' me home, missus. I was on the verge of leavin'—I done done my time for the year."
His statement is clarified for Miss Caroline when one of the older members of Scout's class explains that the Ewells only come on the first day because the truant officer threatens them with the sheriff in order to get them to attend.