In To Kill a Mockingbird, what unintentionally funny answer does Scout give when asked by her aunt where her britches are today?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout unintentionally causes everyone to laugh when she replies to the question with, "Under my dress" (229).  Actually, it is Miss Maudie who asks the question of Scout in Chapter 24 of To Kill a Mockingbird.  It may help to see the comment within its context:

Miss Maudie's gold bridgework twinkled.  "You're mighty dressed up, Miss Jean Louise," she said.  "Where are your britches today?"

"Under my dress."

I hadn't meant to be funny, but the ladies laughed.  My cheeks grew hot as I realized my mistake, but Miss Maudie looked gravely down at me.  She never laughed at me unless I meant to be funny.  (229)

The basis of the joke revolves around the term "britches" which can mean "jeans" or "pants" or "underwear."  Miss Maudie, of course, is surprised to see Scout wearing a dress instead of her usual "britches" or pants that she usually wears (being a tomboy and all).  This is the basis for Miss Maudie's comment.  Scout, of course, talks without thinking here, . . . assuming that Miss Maudie is referring to her underwear and forgetting that she is in the company of the high class ladies of Maycomb.  Miss Maudie's modest response shows what great respect she has for the Finch children.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 24, Scout attends Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle for the first time and experiences what it is like to formally socialize with the ladies of Maycomb. Scout is a tomboy, who enjoys playing outside and hanging out with Jem and Dill, which is why she considers attending the missionary circle a foreign experience.

After Scout brings the ladies refreshments, she sits next to Miss Maudie and attempts to take part in the conversations among the ladies. When Miss Maudie asks Scout where her britches are today, Scout responds by saying, "Under my dress" (233). Scout had not meant to be funny, but the other ladies laugh at her comment. However, Scout's unintentional funny remark does not amuse Miss Maudie, who knows that Scout was not joking. As Scout has little to no experience dressing up and acting like a proper lady, she simply wears her dress over the top her overalls, which makes the other women laugh when she admits it to Miss Maudie.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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