Because the narrative is told by an adult Scout in a retrospective manner, the reader is provided with more introspection than would be the case if the young Scout were the narrator/participant. Still, even with this added adult element, Scout as a young girl is obviously precocious, having learned to read simply from sitting on her father's knee as he peruses his Mobile Register every evening. Here are some other things that the reader gleans from the first two chapters:
- Like those from reputable families in the South, Jean Louise Finch (Scout) has a sense of heritage. She realizes that her father has a more prestigious position in the community than many. And, she has a relationship with her father that differs somewhat from the other children in the community because he is older and more cerebral.
Jem and I found our father satisfactory; he played with us, read to us,and treated us with courteous detachment.
- Because their mother has died, Calpurnia the maid assumes a motherly role at times, using her wide hand on Scout when she misbehaves.
- Scout is nearly six, Jem is ten years old
- Scout and Jem meet Charles Baker Harris, who is called Dill, a diminutive but bright and imaginative boy.
- Across the way from their house is the Radley's place, a house around which mystery lies as Scout believes "a malevolent phantom" lives there.
- Scout is a close observer of people. She describes the Radley home and its past history and how Mr. Radley would not look at them when they passed, but only cough in recognition. When Dill wants to draw Boo outside the house, Jem demurs; he tells Dill that he has a little sister to protect and he cannot take some risks. But Scout knows that he excuses his fear:
"When he said that I knew he was afraid. Jem had his little sister to think of the time I dared him to jump off the top of the house: 'If I got killed, what'd become of you?' he asked. Then he jumped, landed unhurt, and his sense of responsibility left him until confronted by the Radley House."
- This observation of Scout's establishes her perceptive nature which she will display later in the narrative, especially during the trial of Tom Robinson and at the end of the novel.
- Scout anticipates going to school with great eagerness. Whereas the parent usually takes the first-grader to school, Jem is given the dubious honor. The perceptive Scout notices the jingle of change in his pockets and deduces that Jem has taken this assignment for a price.
- Scout displays her droll sense of humor when she describes the children's apprehension when Miss Caroline, her teacher, announces that she is from Winston County. [Winston County was sympathetic to the North in the Civil War, and this disloyalty has been noted to every generation since]. The rest of Alabama is forever suspicious of Winston County, and Scout notes humorously:
North Alabama was full of Liquor Interest, Big Mules, steel companies, Republicans, professors, and other persons of no background. (this is stated in a "tongue-in-cheek" manner)
- Scout also employs humor in describing Miss Caroline's dismay that Scout is so proficient in reading: "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."
- After she is scolded for knowing how to read, Scout narrates with satiric humor,
"I never deliberately learned to read, but somehow I had been wallowing illicitly in the daily papers."
- When Scout attempts to help Miss Caroline understand the financial plight of many of the students, she finds herself scolded and disciplined. For she does not understand that Miss Caroline feels threatened by this abnormally intelligent and educated child. Clearly, Scout does not realize how advanced she is, nor does she understand why she is disciplined and made to sit in the corner for having attempted to help her teacher
- After this,Miss Blount appears in the doorway, telling Miss Caroline that her sixth grade students cannot learn because of the confusion across from them. As they go to lunch, Scout looks back and displays her hard feelings as she observes that she would feel sorry for Miss Caroline if she were not so cruel to her. "She was such a pretty little thing."