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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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How do people react to the fire at Miss Maudie's house in Chapter 8 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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In Chapter 8, the people of Maycomb react to the fire at Miss Maudie's house by selflessly attempting to save her furniture, demonstrating their close-knit community and care for one another. Men risk their lives to help, despite the town's inadequate fire-fighting resources, which highlights both their solidarity and the town's overall unpreparedness for such disasters, foreshadowing future events in the story.

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In Chapter 8, Miss Maudie's house catches on fire in the middle of the night, and all of the men of Maycomb try their best to help save Maudie's furniture. Scout and Jem watch as their neighbors risk their lives entering Maudie's burning home to carry out various pieces of furniture. Scout sees her father carry out Maudie's favorite wooden rocking chair and watches as Mr. Avery gets stuck in Maudie's upstairs window attempting to save her mattress. Fortunately, Mr. Avery escapes from the home without being seriously injured. The men of Maycomb selflessly risk their well being to help Miss Maudie. Their actions demonstrate the close-knit community of Maycomb and depict their love for one another. The citizens are not able to save Maudie's home, however, and the house eventually collapses.

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The fire scene also shows how the town functions when one of their own, a white woman, needs help.  All of the men in the town show up to cart out Miss Maudie's furniture.  We also see how small and poor the town is for one reason the fire consumes the house is that the old fire truck "killed by the cold, was being pushed from town by a crowd of men." And then when it finally reaches its destination, "the hose burst an water shot up, tinkling down the pavement." The (white) people in this town can be loving and they do form a real community in spite of their differences, yet they are ill prepared for any real tragedy, which presages the tragedy they will face when Tom is falsely accused of rape.  Fire consumes them as racism consumes them, hurting different people in different ways.

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