What does the fire at Miss Maudie's house in To Kill a Mockingbird reveal about the people living in Alabama in the 1930's?
The whole town is taken by surprise by the unseasonably cold weather and snowfall that hits Maycomb. The superstitious Dick Avery blames Jem and Scout, claiming it was "written on the Rosetta Stone" that disobedient children caused the seasons to change. Scout, like many Southern children, has never seen snow before, so it becomes an exciting day and night for her. The town is unprepared for the cold weather: "The old fire truck, killed by the cold," would not start and was "being pushed from town by a crowd of men." When they try to pump the water, "the hose burst." Miss Maudie spent the day tending to her garden instead of cleaning her dirty fireplace flue, the cause of the fire. But the very beswt in the people of Maycomb is also evident. Most of the town turns out to help.
The men of Maycomb, in all degrees of dress and undress, took furniture from Miss Maudie's house. (Chapter 8)
Atticus personally saved her old oak rocker, and Scout "thought it sensible of him to save what she valued most." Mr. Avery was the last man out, having to exit by a porch pillar before falling upon Maudie's shrubbery. The Radleys also came to help. Nathan was seen "tuggin' that mattress"; but it was Boo who remained unseen, placing a blanket discretely upon Scout's shoulders. Before the fire is even out, Miss Maudie has a new place to stay (with Miss Stephanie) and a new outlook on life: Her next house will be smaller so she can have a larger garden. The response by the citizens of Maycomb (as well as by the volunteers who manned the Abbotsville and Clark's Ferry firetrucks) shows a typical small-town Southern reaction to a neighbor in need. Miss Maudie's friends and neighbors came to her aid on the "coldest night" of Atticus's memory, and they stayed until dawn--a fitting tribute to the woman who preferred the company of her flowers to people.