What is significant about the character of Miss Caroline Fisher in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird?  

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Scout mentions that her teacher, Miss Caroline Fisher, is from Winston County. This county in the northern part of Alabama sided with the North during the Civil War. Many in Alabama viewed Winston County's decision as a betrayal of the state. This mention of Caroline Fisher's birthplace highlights her outsider status.

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Miss Caroline Fisher is a new teacher and, more significantly, a newcomer to Maycomb. She is from Winston County in northern Alabama, which might as well be the moon, at least from Scout's point of view. Miss Fisher's lack of insight into Maycomb affords Lee the opportunity, through Scout, to communicate to both Miss Fisher and the reader some of the social dynamics of this small town.

For example, when Walter Cunningham comes to school without a lunch, Miss Fisher tries to lend him a quarter. However, Walter won't take it. Miss Fisher doesn't understand, and it is left to Scout to explain the situation. She tries to tell her that although very poor, the Cunninghams are proud and will never accept money they can't pay back. Since Walter knows he can't repay the quarter, he would rather go without lunch. We begin to understand that poverty is an everyday aspect of life in Maycomb and that pride is an important and accepted social trait.

Further, the students laugh when Miss Fisher hits Scout's hand with a ruler, seeing this as impossibly wimpy. They are used to real whippings. We thus learn that Maycomb is a rough and tumble, old-fashioned place, one not filled with fragile people.

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Miss Caroline plays a significant role in depicting Harper Lee's feelings about public education. Instead of encouraging Scout to continue reading with her father and facilitating her advanced reading ability, Miss Caroline chastises Scout. Miss Caroline tells Scout that she is not allowed to read with her father anymore and also forbids her from writing in cursive. Miss Caroline has a rigid view of education and strictly follows the curriculum. She also fails to take into consideration the needs and interests of her students. In regards to discipline, students like Burris Ewell openly disrespect her and her methods of punishment are ineffective. Following Scout's first day of school, she dreads returning to Miss Caroline's class. Through her portrayal of Miss Caroline's class, Lee suggests that public education is inflexible and actually deters students from authentic learning experiences.

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