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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Humorous events in chapters 1–3 of To Kill A Mockingbird


In chapters 1-3 of To Kill a Mockingbird, humorous events include Scout's first day at school, where her teacher misunderstands her abilities and background. Additionally, Scout's description of the eccentric Dill, and the children's imaginative and exaggerated stories about Boo Radley provide comic relief amid the more serious themes introduced early in the novel.

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What are two humorous events in To Kill A Mockingbird chapters 1–3?

In the first three chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee acquaints the reader with Jean Louise “Scout” Finch’s outlook on life and the members of her family and immediate social circle. Scout finds certain events and people as entertaining. In addition, sometimes others are entertained at Scout's expense.

When Scout and her brother Jem first get to know Charles Baker “Dill” Harris, a boy who will become their close friend, they are happy at the novelty of finding a new kid in town. Dill, who comes from Mississippi, is a source of great entertainment for the Finch children. Scout finds humor in his renditions of books that they have not read and films they have not seen. His enthusiasm for telling stories makes his eyes light up, and “his laugh [is] happy and sudden.” She also considers that they are “lucky to have Dill” because he plays diverse parts in stories that they enact, especially those that Scout did not enjoy, such as “the ape in Tarzan.” She dubs Dill “a pocket Merlin.”

Scout starts school that fall and, though she had longed to be one of the children playing in the schoolyard at recess, finds she had little idea of what classroom lessons would entail. Although the adult Scout narrating the story clearly recalls the pain of being criticized for her advanced learning, she also presents her younger self as the kind of know-it-all girl who rarely endears herself to a novice teacher. After several incidents with Miss Caroline in just the first day, the teacher loses her patience. After she hits Scout’s hand with a ruler, she sends her to stand in a corner of the classroom. Scout acknowledges that the other children find her comeuppance funny, even if she does not:

A storm of laughter broke loose when it finally occurred to the class that Miss Caroline had whipped me.

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What are two humorous events in To Kill A Mockingbird chapters 1–3?

In chapter 1, it is rather humorous the first time Jem and Scout meet Dill sitting in his aunt's collard patch. The Finch children initially think that someone's dog is making noise in the collard patch and are shocked to discover a small boy sitting in the middle of the vegetables. Dill then introduces himself as Charles Baker Harris and humorously remarks that he can read. Jem's response is also funny; he tells Dill,

Your name’s longer’n you are. Bet it’s a foot longer. (7)

Toward the end of chapter 1, another humorous event takes place when Dill bets Jem that he's too scared to knock on the Radley's door. Jem is terrified of the Radley home and offers a funny rebuttal by telling Dill that he has a younger sister to take care of. Once Jem claims that it is necessary to look after Scout, she immediately knows that he is afraid. The children's fears regarding Boo Radley are also humorous, and it is a funny moment when Jem runs into the Radley yard to touch the side of the house.

Another funny moment takes place in chapter 3, on Scout's first day of school. It is a humorous moment when Miss Caroline screams at the top of her lungs after a "cootie" crawls out of Burris Ewell's hair. While the teacher is freaking out, the country children attempt to calm her down and assure her that "cooties" are harmless.

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What are two humorous events in To Kill A Mockingbird chapters 1–3?

Humor is often present in events that are funny to the person who is not a part of them.  In To Kill a Mockingbird chapters 1-3, three humorous events are the entrance of Dill, and Scout’s first day of school.

First of all, Lee often uses humor when introducing Maycomb and its characters to us.  The entrance of Dill is quite memorable.

We went to the wire fence to see if there was a puppy- Miss Rachel's rat terrier was expecting- instead we found someone sitting looking at us. Sitting down, he wasn't much higher than the collards. (ch 1)

Most of the descriptions of Dill are humorous.  He is larger than life, even though he is described as small.  When we first meet him here, the children think he is a puppy.  He introduces himself with his big name “Charles Baker Harris” and tells them he can read.  Jem is not amused, because Dill is seven years old and should be reading.  Dill’s hair is described as “stuck to his head like duckfluff” and he tells the story of how he won a beautiful child contest and he went to the movies twenty times with the money.

A second humorous event is Scout’s first day of school.  The teacher, Miss Caroline, is completely clueless.  She “looked and smelled like a peppermint drop” (ch 2), and we are first introduced to her when Scout says that she had already been punished before lunch on her first day of her first year of school.  When she is introduced, the children are mildly suspicious.

I am from North Alabama, from Winston County." The class murmured apprehensively, should she prove to harbor her share of the peculiarities indigenous to that region.  (ch 2)

The matter of fact dry wit with which the adult narrator describes Scout’s misadventures can only make the reader chuckle.  Miss Caroline reads a story about cats, and Scout notes that the class has no imagination.  She screams when she finds lice on a child’s head, and the older boys try to protect her.  On top of this, several of the children have repeated first grade and are there to keep order.  By lunchtime, Scout is rubbing Walter Cunningham’s nose in the dirt for getting her in trouble when she tried to explain why he wouldn’t take a quarter.

All of the humorous events in the story point us to hidden truths.  One of the reasons Dill is so funnily odd is that he is terribly lonely, since his family hoists him off all of the time.  Scout’s first day of school indicates larger class and cultural differences which will be key to the story later.  Lee deftly uses humor to give us crucial information.

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What are two humorous events in chapter 3 of To Kill A Mockingbird?

In chapter three of To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout fights with Walter Cunningham. Jem makes a humorous comment after he breaks up the fight: 

Catching Walter Cunningham in the schoolyard gave me some pleasure, but when I was rubbing his nose in the dirt Jem came by and told me to stop. "You're bigger'n he is," he said.

Although Jem is probably being serious, his comment comes across as humorous. No doubt, Scout is bigger than Walter, but the fact that Scout is a girl and beating up a boy is a humorous event. Scout fights like a boy. She is a tom boy. Jem has always treated Scout like a boy. His comment is humorous because he never mentions that Scout is a girl fighting a boy. He only comments that Scout is bigger than Walter. This creates a smile for the reader. 

When Scout mentions that Walter Cunningham is nearly as old as Jem, her comment is humorous:

"He's as old as you, nearly," I said. "He made me start off on the wrong foot."

She is a tough little girl who does not take any sass form anyone. The reader can only smile at the actions of Scout.  

Another humorous event from chapter three happens when Scout gets in trouble for ridiculing Walter Cunningham for pouring syrup  all over his food. Calpurnia orders Scout to report to the kitchen. Calpurnia disciplines Scout for her rude behavior toward her guest, instructing her on how wrong it is to judge company:

"There's some folks who don't eat like us," she whispered fiercely, "but you ain't called on to contradict 'em at the table when they don't. That boy's yo' comp'ny and if he wants to eat up the table cloth you let him, you hear?"

Scout becomes angry at Calpurnia for her strict discipline. Scout threatens Calpurnia. The reader finds Scout's comments humorous as she is feeling sorry for herself:

I told Calpurnia to just wait, I'd fix her: one of these days when she wasn't looking I'd go off and drown myself in Barker's Eddy and then she'd be sorry.

Here, the reader smiles at the comments of Scout. She is cute when she is pouting. Of course, she is not going to drown herself. She is being overly dramatic. Her actions cause the reader to find humor in the surrounding events. 

Another humorous event from chapter three happens when Scout asks her father if she can leave school after her first day. She is quite serious. She mentions that she can be like Burris Ewell who only reports to school on the first day and then never returns. Although Burris's situation is a serious one, it is humorous to think that Scout is thinking of quitting school after only the first day. Truly, Scout has had a difficult day at her first day of school. Again, Scout causes the reader to smile at her dilemma. 

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