To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover
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What is the conflict between Scout and Miss Caroline in To Kill A Mockingbird?

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Scout’s main conflict with Miss Caroline is that her teacher does not try to understand her or Maycomb before making a judgement. 

Miss Caroline’s problem with Scout is that she doesn’t understand her, and she is in way over her head.  She is a new young teacher, “no more than twenty-one,” and she is new to Maycomb too.  Scout tries to help her out by explaining the ways of the town to her.  It does not go well. 

The biggest conflict between Scout and Miss Caroline is over Scout's reading.  Miss Caroline is prepared to teach the first grade the alphabet, and here she has a little girl who can read the newspaper.  You can see how she would be a little threatened. 

[As] I read the alphabet a faint line appeared between her eyebrows, and after making me read  … she discovered that I was literate and looked at me with more than faint distaste. Miss Caroline told me to tell my father not to teach me any more, it would interfere with my reading. (Ch. 2) 

Scout is puzzled by this, because her father never actively taught her to read.  She is also upset by the idea that she would not be allowed to read, because she loves to read. 

Nonetheless, Scout tries to help Miss Caroline out.  She is obviously out of her depth and Scout aims to please.  

… I would have saved myself some inconvenience and Miss Caroline subsequent mortification, but it was beyond my ability to explain things as well as Atticus, so I said, “You’re shamin‘ him, Miss Caroline. Walter hasn’t got a quarter at home to bring you, and you can’t use any stovewood.” (Ch. 2)

Miss Caroline decides she has had enough.  She spanks Scout with a ruler and sends her in a corner.  When the children realize that the teacher whipped Scout, they all laugh.  That was probably a little embarrassing to both of them.

When Scout complains about Miss Caroline, Atticus tells her that she needs to learn to look at things from others’ point of view.  She is getting her first lesson in empathy and growing up.  Miss Caroline is not from Maycomb.  She doesn’t understand Maycomb’s ways.  Scout tried to help her, but she didn’t realize that the teacher wouldn’t appreciate the way she did it.

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