What do we learn about life in Maycomb from Scout's first day at school in To Kill A Mockingbird?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Since the reader is not native to Maycomb, Scout’s first day of school is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the community.  Scout’s teacher Miss Caroline

The first thing we learn about Maycomb is that family history is important.  When Miss Caroline introduces herself and tells them she is from Winston County in North Alabama, the first graders have an interesting reaction.

The class murmured apprehensively, should she prove to harbor her share of the peculiarities indigenous to that region.  (When Alabama seceded from the Union on January 11, 1861, Winston County seceded from Alabama, and every child in Maycomb County knew it.) (ch 2)

Clearly, history and where you come from is important to people in Maycomb.  They are suspicious of the teacher simply because she is from a county that seceded from Alabama in the Civil War.  An action that had nothing to do with Miss Caroline, and happened decades before, was still important enough that people taught their children about it.

The second thing that Miss Caroline learns about Maycomb is that it is mostly rural.

Miss Caroline seemed unaware that the ragged, denim-shirted and floursack-skirted first grade, most of whom had chopped cotton and fed hogs from the time they were able to walk, were immune to imaginative literature. (ch 2)

The children are used to the practical.  The idea of talking cats does not interest them.  They are children of farmers and laborers.  They are mostly poor and hard-working.  This is an important thing to learn about the children and Maycomb in order to teach them.

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