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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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How does Chapter 8 of To Kill a Mockingbird suggest that childhood is a time of wonder and a time for asking questions? 

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This chapter is a time of discovery and enlightenment for the children and particularly Scout. She awakens one morning to her own screams.

     "The world's endin', Atticus! Please do something--!"  (Chapter 8)

But it is only her first snowfall--and Jem's, too--and the children spend the rest of the day (school has been canceled) trying to build a snowman out of the limited white powder available. Jem is forced to compromise: There is not enough snow in either their own yard or Miss Maudie's to build a proper snowman, so Jem decides to use mud for the base and snow for the outside. The snowman becomes symbolic in two ways: It is both a "Morphodite"--Scout misunderstand's Maudie's description of it appearing hermaphroditic--with male and female characteristics; and racially mixed--black on the inside and white on the outside. The snow at first feels hot to her touch until Jem explains that it's "so cold it burns." Jem and Scout are blamed for the unseasonable snow by Dick Avery, who superstitiously believes that "bad children" are the cause. The children are forced to alter the snowman's appearance when it too closely resembles Mr. Avery, and Atticus teaches them the meaning of a "caricature" and how the snowman has "perpetrated a near libel here in the front yard." That night the children discover how the severe cold can also cause the destruction of fire when Maudie's house burns to the ground. They are amazed at how Avery becomes a hero, nearly being consumed by the blaze as he tries to save items from the house; and how Maudie takes the destruction of her home so calmly.

     "You ain't grievin', Miss Maudie?..."
     "Grieving, child?... Thought of settin' fire to it a hundred times myself.  (Chapter 8)

But the biggest surprise is yet to come. When Scout discovers a blanket draped around her shoulders, she has no clue how it got there until Atticus reveals that "all of Maycomb was out tonight," and that "Someday maybe Scout can thank him for covering her up."

     "Thank who?"
     "Boo Radley..."
     My stomach turned to water and I nearly threw up...  (Chapter 8)

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