Chapter 8 Summary and Analysis
Maycomb has an unusually cold winter that year. Mr. Avery tells Jem and Scout that the weather changes when children disobey adults, which makes them feel responsible for the cold. When old Mrs. Radley dies, people hardly take notice. Atticus goes over to the house, which prompts Scout and Jem to ask after Boo, but Atticus rebuffs their questions. The next morning, it starts snowing, and Scout assumes the world is ending. When she realizes it's not, she wants to play in the snow, and she and Jem go about making a snowman with a frame of dirt and a covering of snow. When Atticus sees it, he tells them to alter it a bit so it doesn't look too much like Mr. Avery.
That night, the temperature dips to 16°—the coldest night Atticus can remember. He wakes Jem and Scout up because a fire has broken out at Miss Maudie's house. Atticus tells them to stand in front of the Radley house, where they'll be out of the way while the men work. The fire truck has to be pushed from the center of town, because the cold made it stall out. Meanwhile, Atticus and the other neighbors carry Miss Maudie's furniture out of the house. Mr. Avery manages to fall off the upstairs porch. Unfortunately, the fire truck is too late, and the fire eats up into Miss Maudie's roof. Eventually, the house collapses, and the fire trucks leave. One had come from Clark's Ferry, sixty miles away.
When Atticus rejoins the children, he's cross with Scout, because he thinks she disobeyed him to fetch herself a blanket. In fact, Scout hadn't realized that she had a blanket or that Boo slipped up to her while the house was burning to lay the blanket on her shoulders. When Atticus figures out what happened, Jem begs him not to tell Nathan Radley about it, telling him that Nathan is crazy and might be keeping Boo from contacting them. Atticus agrees to keep it between them, and he tells the kids they don't have to go to school the next day because of what happened. So the next day they sleep in until noon and then head over to Miss Maudie's. She's in pretty good spirits for someone whose house just burned down. She already has plans to build a new one.
Appomattox. It's unclear whether Miss Maudie is referring to the Battle of Appomattox Court House or to the Battle of Appomattox Station. The former was one of the final battles of the American Civil War and resulted in a decisive Union victory and the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. The latter was fought the day before the Battle of Appomattox Court House and is considered part of the Appomattox Campaign. The battles took place on April 8th and 9th, 1865. Atticus alludes to Appomattox to emphasize that it hasn't been this cold in Maycomb for a very long time.
The Rosetta Stone. Discovered in 1799, the Rosetta Stone was the key to deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphs. Mr. Avery alludes to it when he lies to the Finch children about their bad behavior being the cause of the cold weather. According to him, it's written on the Rosetta Stone that when children disobey adults, the seasons change. Of course, the Rosetta Stone says no such thing. Mr. Avery is trying to make them feel bad by using an elevated allusion that they won't understand. It works.
Absolute Morphodite. The Finch children's naive pronunciation of "hermaphrodite," which refers to any organism with both male and female sexual organs or characteristics. Their snowman isn't a hermaphrodite, but they continue to use this term, to the great amusement of Miss Maudie.
Personification. Some examples of this would be the fire that "devoured" Miss Maudie's house and the siren that "wailed" down the street, "screaming" like a person would.
Some examples of this would be Miss Maudie's house looking "like a pumpkin" as it burns orange and Miss Maudie's hat encased in ice "like a fly in amber."