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.