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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What are four quotes that deal with misinterpretation in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird?

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There are several scenes throughout the novel that depict characters misinterpreting various ideas and comments. In Chapter 2, Scout is frustrated with Miss Caroline's teaching style and laments to her brother, Jem, during recess on the first day of school. Jem explains to Scout that the teachers are introducing a new way of teaching. He tells her, "I'm just trying to tell you the new way they're teachin' the first grade, stubborn. It's the Dewey Decimal System." (Lee 24) Jem misinterprets what the Dewey Decimal System actually is. The Dewey Decimal System is a way for librarians to classify books and is not a teaching strategy that involves flashcards.

In Chapter in 3, Scout is describing her terrible first day of school, and Atticus teaches her a lesson in gaining perspective. Scout has an epiphany and says, "listen Atticus, I don't have to go to school!" (Lee 40) Scout comments that Burris only has to go to school on the first day. Atticus tries to explain to his daughter that Burris has an excuse because he has a unique circumstance. Scout misinterprets Burris' excused absence as a justifiable reason that she doesn't have to go to school. Atticus elaborates further into why Burris has a viable excuse to miss school and makes a compromise with Scout that she will go to school if he continues to read to her at night.

In Chapter 5, Scout is having a conversation with Miss Maudie about the Radleys. Miss Maudie tells Scout that Mr. Radley is a "foot-washing Baptist" who takes the Bible literally. Miss Maudie says, "sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of---oh, of your father." (Lee 60) Scout misinterprets Maudie's metaphor and says, "Atticus doesn't drink whisky...He never drunk a drop in his life---nome, yes he did. He said he drank some one time and didn't like it." (Lee 60) Scout is too young to understand that Maudie was attempting to compare the negative effects associated with interpreting the Bible literally to the negative effects alcohol would have on a sober individual.

In Chapter 7, Jem explains to Scout what he is learning in the sixth grade. Scout mentions that Jem went through a brief period where he walked like an Egyptian. Jem tells Scout that they walked like stiff zombies. Jem misinterprets Egyptian art and believes that their hieroglyphs accurately depicted how they walked. Scout can't seem to understand how they accomplished so much if they walked like that.

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