What is Mr. Avery's claim to fame in "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At times cranky toward the children, Mr. Avery is a boarder who resides across the street from Mrs. Dubose. Every evening he sits on the porch until well after dark in paroxysms of sneezing. The children pay little attention to Mr. Avery when he sits there until they witness an act of his which they believe may well be his "swan song."

Scout narrates that one evening before Mr. Avery rose to go to bed, Jem, Dill, and she "were privileged to witness a performance by him which seemed to have been his positively last" (Ch.6). As Scout and Jem descend the front steps of Miss Rachel's house, Dill calls out, "Golly, looka yonder" while he points to the other side of the street. At first, Jem and Scout see nothing but the front porch that is overgrown with climbing vines of kudzu. Soon, however, they notice something that seems phenomenal to the two boys:

...an arc of water descending from the leaves and splashing in the yellow circle of the street light, some ten feet from source to earth. (Ch.6)

Impressed, Jem and Dill calculate the "relative distances" and "respective prowess" of Mr. Avery's action, while Scout feels left out of the discussion. As it turns out, this performance of Mr. Avery's is, indeed, his last, since he must have heard the children and realized that his inappropriate action had been witnessed.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mr. Avery is a neighbor of the Finches who whittles wood. He is rather coarse person, one time blaming the children for the bad weather because , he says, disobedient children make the seasons change. Nevertheless, he risks his own life fighting the fire at Miss Maudie's house.

zumba96 | Student

He has more of a "claim for fame". He is a frugal man and he is not the best person, but he tries to help Miss Maudie by fighting the fire in her house. One time the kids were on the street and they thought he must drink a lot because he was going to the bathroom in public. 

mccrearyacres | Student

If this is a question from your teacher, and he/she is a bit of a trickster-Mr. Avery has another "claim to fame," from Scout and Jem's viewpoint. For Mr. Avery's not-so-gallant claim to fame, check out the beginning of Chapter 6. Within the first page of the chapter Scout mentions that, "Besides making change in the collection plat every Sunday..." which means he's a bit cheap or frugal. Reading a little bit further there is something even more shocking that he does, "...but a closer inspection revealed an arc of water descending from the leaves and splashing in the yellow circle of the street light...Dill said he must drink  a gallon a day..." Basically, the kids caught Mr. Avery taking a bathroom break over the edge of his porch--pretty impressive!

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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