In To Kill a Mockingbird, Miss Caroline sent Burris Ewell home because he had lice. What effect did her instructions have on him?

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Miss Caroline was about twenty-one years old and from North Winston County.  She was unaccustomed to the children who were raised in Maycomb.  When she saw lice in Burris Ewell’s hair, she screamed.  The children as a whole did not find it unusual and did not react to it.  They were concerned that she had been frightened, but they were not concerned that he had lice.  Miss Caroline told him,

“Well, Burris, …..I think we’d better excuse you for the rest of the afternoon.  I want you to go home and wash your hair.” (pg 26)

She then opened a book and told Burris that he should wash his hair with lye soap.  Lye soap is a very harsh soap but it was the cure for lice in those days.   He was to treat his scalp with kerosene afterwards. Burris didn’t understand.  Scout says,

"He was the filthiest human I had ever seen. His neck was dark gray, the backs of his hands were rusty, and his fingernails were black deep into the quick. “ (pg 27)

She then asked him to bathe himself before he returned the next day.  Burris laughs at this.  The Ewells never attended school for more than one day a year. The children tell her,

“They come the first day every year and then leave.  The truant lady gets ‘em here ‘cause she threatens ‘em with the sheriff, but she’s give up tryin’ to hold ‘em.”  (pg 27)

So when Miss Caroline tells him to wash his hair and his body, Burris just laughs.   He tells her,

“You ain’t sendin’ me home, missus.  I was on the verge of leavin’ ---- I done my time for this year.”

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