When Scout tries to spare Walter Cunningham any further humiliation, what does Miss Caroline do to her?
In Chapter 2, Scout attempts to stick up for Walter Cunningham by explaining to Miss Caroline why he will not accept her quarter. However, Scout naively believes that Miss Caroline is familiar with the Cunningham family and simply says, "Walter's one of the Cunninghams, Miss Caroline" (Lee 14). Miss Caroline is confused and does not understand Scout's comment. Scout mentions that she couldn't describe the Cunningham family as well as Atticus could, and tells Miss Caroline,
"You're shamin' him, Miss Caroline. Walter hasn't got a quarter at home to bring you, and you can't use any stovewood" (Lee 15).
Miss Caroline is shocked at Scout's response and grabs her by the collar as she walks Scout behind her desk. Miss Caroline proceeds to yell at Scout for her behavior and makes Scout stick out the palm of her hand. Miss Caroline then picks up a ruler and gives Scout six little pats on the palm of her hand as punishment. She then tells Scout to stand in the corner as the class erupts into laughter.
In Chapter Two of To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout has a hard time adjusting to the expectations of her new teacher, Miss Caroline, on the first day of school. After getting lectured for being too adept at reading--a skill which Miss Caroline blames on Atticus--Scout once again finds herself in hot water when she tries to defend Walter Cunningham from a case of misunderstanding.
Walter has not brought a lunch to school, and so Miss Caroline offers to lend him a quarter as long as he will repay her the next day. Scout immediately gets involved and tries to tell Miss Caroline that Walter will not be able to pay back the quarter because he is a Cunningham and, thus, cannot afford to do so (nor does he want to accept charity).
Incensed by this commentary, Miss Caroline gives Scout a "half a dozen quick little pats" on the hand with her ruler and makes her stand in the corner. Scout is only released from this punishment when the lunch bell rings.
This scene in Chapter 2 is another example of Scout's outspokenness and naivety, Miss Caroline's inexperience, and Walter Cunningham's pride.
When Miss Caroline continues to try to force Walter to take lunch money, Scout finally steps in (at the request of another student in the class) and explains that even though Walter might be a poor Cunningham, he doesn't take anything from anybody. Miss Caroline does not appreciate this because she is now embarrassed that she humiliated one of her students and so
"she stood stock still, then grabbed [Scout] by the collar and hauled [her] back to her desk" (21).
She then smacks Scout on the hand with a ruler and makes her stand in the corner.