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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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How would you describe Burris Ewell's attitude towards school in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Burris Ewell’s attitude toward school, like that of the rest of his family, is one of contempt. The Ewell children show up on the first day, as their parents have been threatened with the truant officer, but then do not return. Burris calls this “doing his time,” as if school were jail. The description of Burris’s filthy condition indicates the parents’ neglect of their children. His classmates are aware that the Ewells rarely attend school, and on the first day, Scout tries to explain this exceptional behavior to Miss Caroline, the teacher.

Burris’s overall attitude is conflated with his flagrant defiance of the teacher’s authority. Refusing even to sit down upon the teacher’s instruction, he sasses her with “make me.” When another child, Little Chuck, intervenes, he threatens him and then calls Miss Caroline a “slut” before leaving.

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Burris Ewell is not a fan of education and hates school. Burris, along with the rest of his family, only shows up for the first day of school each year because their truancy officer forces them to come. Burris confirms this fact by bragging that he has been coming to the first day of school for three years. Since Burris is in a first-grade class, and he has been coming for three years, he technically should be in the fourth grade. On the first day of school, Burris is asked to leave and go home to wash his hair. The Ewells are a notoriously dirty family with low moral standards, and Burris is no different. After giving attitude to Miss Caroline, he is asked to leave. Burris insults Miss Caroline as he is leaving the school. Since Burris' father, Bob Ewell, is an uneducated alcoholic, it is more than likely that Burris will travel the same path.

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