In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, what happened to Miss Maudie's house?

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In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Miss Maudie's house burns to the ground the night after Scout sees her first snowfall.

When Scout first sees snow, she thinks the world is ending. There's not much snow, and Scout and Jem will struggle to build a "respectable" snowman—more mud than snow. With concern that it looks more like Mr. Avery than it should, the kids borrow a hat from Miss Maudie to cover up the likeness. It is an exciting day, but introduces a sense of the unusual, an essence of excitement, and a setting of unnaturally cold temperatures—important at the fire the next night. 

Whereas Scout had been greeted by the miracle (and fear) of snow the previous evening, the next night Atticus gently wakes the children to take them outside to avoid the danger of fire.

That something was wrong finally got through to me. "What's the matter?"

By then he did not have to tell me. Just as the birds know where to go when it rains, I knew when there was trouble in our street. Soft taffeta-like sounds and muffled scurrying sounds filled me with helpless dread.

"Whose is it?"

"Miss Maudie's, hon," said Atticus gently.

At the front door, we saw fire spewing from Miss Maudie's diningroom windows. As if to confirm what we saw, the town fire siren wailed up the scale to a treble pitch and remained there screaming.

This scene is important for several reasons. It introduces (as did the snow) a dread and fascination for the children of something both frightening and awe-inspiring. It also promotes the theme of community in the novel: whereas community can be ugly at times (especially as seen with Tom Robinson's trial), here the reader gets the sense of what Miss Maudie will allude to later in the novel: that there are decent people in Maycomb. In this case, they come out to try to save Miss Maudie's house...and everything in it. For example, Atticus carries Miss Maudie's rocking chair; Mr. Avery shoves a mattress out of the upstairs window.

The other element introduced by the fire is the extent of the neighborhood that turns out for the fire, as well as the element of concern—for it is while Scout watches all of this action that she is visited by another—and unlikely—member of the community.

As we drank our cocoa I noticed Atticus looking at me, first with curiosity, then with sternness. "I thought I told you and Jem to stay put," he said.

"Why, we did. We stayed—"

"Then whose blanket is that?"


"Yes, ma'am, blanket. It isn't ours."

...I turned to Jem for an answer, but Jem was even more bewildered than I. He said he didn't know how it got there, we did exactly as Atticus had told us, we stood down by the Radley gate...Jem stopped.

"Mr. Nathan was at the fire," he babbled, "I saw him, I saw him, he was tuggin' that mattress—Atticus, I swear..."

"That's all right, son." Atticus grinned slowly. "Looks like all of Maycomb was out tonight...We'd better keep this and the blanket to ourselves. Someday, maybe, Scout can thank him for covering her up."

"Thank who?" I asked.

"Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at the fire you didn't know it when he put the blanket around you."

The freezing temperatures that brought the snow also introduce Scout's need for a blanket.

This incident foreshadows Boo's concern over the children, the knowledge that Boo watches the children, and an understanding of how Boo is able to be in the right place at the right time when the children will desperately need his protection later.

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Right after the snowfall (a very rare occurrence in Maycomb) struck the town, Miss Maudie's house caught on fire. Many people from the town showed up to fight the fire, and it seemed likely for a time that the sparks from the fire might catch the Finch's house on fire as well. The story is evidence of both Miss Maudie's courage and redoubtable nature as well as the superstitious nature of the people of Maycomb. They blame the snow and the fire on the behavior of the town's children. Coming shortly before the trial, the two odd events do seem to foreshadow the events that are to come. Miss Maudie, on the other hand, simply prepares herself to move on, claiming that she wanted a smaller house anyway. Miss Maudie is in many ways a central figure in the book. She is the person who explains why one shouldn't shoot a mockingbird:

Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

Her house burning down is also a pivotal event in the children's relationship with Boo Radley, who, it is discovered after the fact, put a blanket on Scout's shoulders as the townspeople battled the flames.

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