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One of my favorite quotations that develops Scout's intelligence is one wherein she chooses to look at it differently. Most first graders can't read well. When Miss Caroline encounters Scout, she learns quite differently. This girl has a great capacity to read at a young age:
As I read the alphabet a faint line appeared between her eyebrows, and after making me read most of My First Reader and the stock-market quotations from The Mobile Register aloud, she discovered that I was literate and looked at me with more than faint distaste. (Chapter 2, third page in)
Later, Scout balances her book smarts with street smarts. She explains life in Maycomb for the teacher. In both of these instances, intellect gets Scout in trouble:
Miss Caroline and I had conferred twice already, and they were looking at me in the innocent assurance that familiarity breeds understanding.I rose graciously on Walter’s behalf:
“What is it, Jean Louise?”
“Miss Caroline, he’s a Cunningham.” I sat back down.
“What, Jean Louise?”
I thought I had made things sufficiently clear. It was clear enough to the rest of us: Walter Cunningham was sitting there lying his head off. He didn’t forget his lunch, he didn’t have any. He had none today nor would he have any tomorrow or the next day. He had probably never seen three quarters together at the same time in his life.
I tried again: “Walter’s one of the Cunninghams, Miss Caroline.”
“I beg your pardon, Jean Louise?”
“That’s okay, ma’am, you’ll get to know all the county folks after a while. The Cunninghams never took anything they can’t pay back—no church baskets and no scrip stamps. They never took anything off of anybody, they get along on what they have. They don’t have much, but they get along on it.” (This is still in chapter 2, a few pages later)
A final incident occurs once again with a teacher. It is almost as if Lee is sending an additional message about education. Here, Scout explains something she doesn't understand about Miss Gates:
“Miss Gates is a nice lady, ain’t she?”
“Why sure,” said Jem. “I liked her when I was in her room.”
“She hates Hitler a lot…”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Well, she went on today about how bad it was him treatin‘ the Jews like that. Jem, it’s not right to persecute anybody, is it? I mean have mean thoughts about anybody, even, is it?”
“Gracious no, Scout. What’s eatin‘ you?”
“Well, coming out of the courthouse that night Miss Gates was—she was goin‘ down the steps in front of us, you musta not seen her—she was talking with Miss Stephanie Crawford. I heard her say it’s time somebody taught ’em a lesson, they were gettin‘ way above themselves, an’ the next thing they think they can do is marry us. Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an‘ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home—” (Last 2 pages of 26)
Scout has demonstrated for us that she understands hypocrisy. This is a difficult concept for a little kid, but she has wrapped her mind around it and shows a moral intelligence few adults find.
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