Please discuss two significant quotes from chapter two of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, is narrated by Jean Louise Finch, better known as Scout. Chapter two of the novel recounts Scout's disastrous first day of school and provides some insight into both Scout and the "country folk" who live near Maycomb. 

The first quote is spoken by Scout's teacher, Miss Caroline. Though she has been educated, she is inexperienced with anything which does not fir the exact parameters of her experience. Instead of being thrilled that one of her pupils (Scout) already knows how to read, she is disgusted and says,

Your father does not know how to teach. You can have a seat now.

This rather ridiculous quote reveals Miss Caroline's inflexibility, of course, but it is also a hint that Scout is rather precocious and will be able to serve as an effective narrator for this story. If her father has taught her to read (and of course one does not need to be a teacher in order to teach), she can probably understand other, more adult things, despite her age.

The second quote is spoken by Scout after Miss Caroline just does not seem to understand that Walter Cunningham did not actually forget his lunch and would never be able to pay her back the quarter she so easily wanted to loan him to buy a lunch. What Scout patiently explains what she and the other children believe should be quite obvious to any adult:

The Cunninghams never took anything they can’t pay back—no church baskets and no scrip stamps. They never took anything off of anybody, they get along on what they have. They don’t have much, but they get along on it.

This quote describes the honest, decent, hardworking but miserably poor Cunninghams; but it could describe any number of families living near Maycomb. [I do not want to spoil anything for you as you read, but remember this quote about the Cunninghams later in the novel.]

These two quotes help the reader understand Scout as the narrator as well as the people who live in Maycomb.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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