To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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What is the main theme of chapter 3 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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A theme is a unifying or dominant idea found within a text. For chapter three in To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout learns a couple of lessons about tolerance and respect from  Calpurnia and Atticus. First, Calpurnia teaches Scout to be a good hostess by tolerating company. Because Scout criticized Walter Cunningham for drowning his vegetables in syrup, Calpurnia teaches her that it is not up to Scout to look down on other people simply because she has more education, opportunities, and privileges. More specifically, Calpurnia says the following:

"Don't matter who they are, anybody sets foot in this house's yo' comp'ny, and don't you let me catch you remarkin' on their ways like you was so high and mighty! Yo' folks might be better'n the Cunninghams but it don't count for nothin' the way you're disgracin' 'em--" (24-25).

Next, Atticus teaches Scout about tolerance because she doesn't understand why her teacher, Miss Caroline, doesn't want her reading with her father. She also doesn't understand why her teacher smacked her in class for simply telling the truth. After her horrible experience with her first teacher, Scout decides that she doesn't want to go back to school ever again. She figures that since she already knows how to read, her father can educate her like his father did. Atticus doesn't have time for that, though, because he's a lawyer and needs to work every day. As a result, he helps Scout by saying the following:

"First of all. . . if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You n ever really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it" (30).

Atticus tells Scout to consider her teacher's point of view and experience and maybe it will help her to feel differently towards the situation. This skill helps Scout to learn how to deal with people with more kindness and tolerance, rather than getting angry, throwing fits, yelling, or beating people up.

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