What was the effect of the allusion, or the insight gained, from the Dewey Decimal System in the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee?Basically, why did the author use this allusion and is it...

What was the effect of the allusion, or the insight gained, from the Dewey Decimal System in the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee?

Basically, why did the author use this allusion and is it effective?

Expert Answers
bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Author Harper Lee's allusion to two Dewey educational styles are confused by Scout and Jem during their first day of school in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. When Scout's teacher, Miss Caroline, declares that Scout has been taught all wrong by Atticus, she complains to Jem.

   "If I didn't have to stay I'd leave. Jem, that damn lady says Atticus's been teaching me to read and for him to stop it--"
   "Don't worry, Scout," Jem comforted me. "Our teacher says Miss Caroline's introducing a new way of teaching. She learned about it in college... It's the Dewey Decimal System."

Of course, Jem has confused the library system of categorizing books (originated by one Melvil Dewey) with the newly devised educational theories of John Dewey, to whom Miss Caroline was no doubt referring. 

The author was probably trying to convey several ideas by the deliberate confusion: One, that modern educational theories may not always be end-all methods, since Scout had learned to read early in life and at a level that far exceeded everyone in her class. Miss Caroline's suggestion that Atticus no longer teach her because it would confuse her own new style was certainly a foolish idea. Additionally, because Jem is older and smarter does not necessarily mean that everything he tells Scout is correct. It would prove to be only one of several examples of false information provided by Jem during the course of the novel.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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