How do the townspeople try to help Miss Maudie in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird? 

How do the townspeople try to help Miss Maudie in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?


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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 8 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the coldest winter in quite a while sets in, bringing a sprinkling of snow. That night following the snowfall is extremely cold, so cold that Calpurnia's lighting of every single fireplace in the Finches' household has very little effect. Burning fireplaces often lead to houses catching fire, and Miss Maudie's does, sadly, catch fire that night. The townspeople help Miss Maudie by doing all they can to battle her fire.

All the men in town gather around Miss Maudie's house to do what they can. Sadly, the engine of the "old fire truck" is too frozen to start, so the men must push it to her house. Scout further describes, "When the men attached its hose to a hydrant, the hose burst and water shot up, tinkling down on the pavement"; in other words, the night is so cold that water from the fire hose uselessly freezes as soon as it hits the air. Since the town was unable to put out the fire, the townspeople do what they can to help Miss Maudie salvage her belongings. Scout describes seeing all sorts of men carrying Miss Maudie's furniture to safety across the street; even Atticus is able to rescue her "heavy oak rocking chair." Most surprising of all is that Miss Maudie's elderly next-door neighbor, Mr. Avery, also does what he can by pushing her mattress out an upstairs window; however, Mr. Avery must escape the house through the window because the stairs are consumed by fire. Sadly, Mr. Avery gets stuck in the window. He is able to free himself but next falls into Miss Maudie's shrubbery from an upstairs porch. Later, Jem notes that he even saw the reclusive Nathan Radley helping out at Miss Maudie's fire.

Finally, fire trucks arrive from Abbottsville and Clark's Ferry to put out the fire, though it is too late to save the house, and Scout describes the demise of the house in the following lines:

Miss Maudie's tin roof quelled the flames. Roaring, the house collapsed; fire gushed everywhere, followed by a flurry of blankets from men on top of the adjacent houses, beating out sparks and burning chunks of wood. (Ch. 8)

In addition to all able men in the town helping out at Miss Maudie's fire, Miss Maudie's second next-door neighbor, Miss Stephanie Crawford, invites Miss Maudie to stay with her while Miss Maudie's new and much smaller house is being built on her property.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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