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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, what happened to Miss Maudie's house?

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In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Miss Maudie's house burns to the ground the night after Scout sees her first snowfall.

When Scout first sees snow, she thinks the world is ending. There's not much snow, and Scout and Jem will struggle to build a "respectable" snowman—more mud than snow. With concern that it looks more like Mr. Avery than it should, the kids borrow a hat from Miss Maudie to cover up the likeness. It is an exciting day, but introduces a sense of the unusual, an essence of excitement, and a setting of unnaturally cold temperatures—important at the fire the next night. 

Whereas Scout had been greeted by the miracle (and fear) of snow the previous evening, the next night Atticus gently wakes the children to take them outside to avoid the danger of fire.

That something was wrong finally got through to me. "What's the matter?"

By then he did not have to tell me. Just as the birds know where to go when it rains, I knew when there was trouble in our street. Soft taffeta-like sounds and muffled scurrying sounds filled me with helpless dread.

"Whose is it?"

"Miss Maudie's, hon," said Atticus gently.

At the front door, we saw fire spewing from Miss Maudie's diningroom windows. As if to confirm what we saw, the town fire siren wailed up the scale to a treble pitch and remained there screaming.

This scene is important for several reasons. It introduces (as did the snow) a dread and fascination for the children of something both frightening and awe-inspiring. It also promotes the theme of community in the novel: whereas community can be ugly at times (especially as seen with Tom Robinson's trial), here the reader gets the sense of what Miss Maudie will allude to later in the novel: that there are decent people in Maycomb. In this case, they come out to try to save Miss Maudie's house...and everything in it. For example, Atticus carries Miss Maudie's rocking chair; Mr. Avery shoves a mattress out of the upstairs window.

The other element introduced by the fire is the extent of the neighborhood that turns out for the fire, as well as the element of concern—for it is while Scout watches all of this action that she is visited by another—and unlikely—member of the community.

As we drank our cocoa I noticed Atticus looking at me, first with curiosity, then with sternness. "I thought I told you and Jem to stay put," he said.

"Why, we did. We stayed—"

"Then whose blanket is that?"


"Yes, ma'am, blanket. It isn't ours."

...I turned to Jem for an answer, but Jem was even more bewildered than I. He said he didn't know how it got there, we did exactly as Atticus had told us, we stood down by the Radley gate...Jem stopped.

"Mr. Nathan was at the fire," he babbled, "I saw him, I saw him, he was tuggin' that mattress—Atticus, I swear..."


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all right, son." Atticus grinned slowly. "Looks like all of Maycomb was out tonight...We'd better keep this and the blanket to ourselves. Someday, maybe, Scout can thank him for covering her up."

"Thank who?" I asked.

"Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at the fire you didn't know it when he put the blanket around you."

The freezing temperatures that brought the snow also introduce Scout's need for a blanket.

This incident foreshadows Boo's concern over the children, the knowledge that Boo watches the children, and an understanding of how Boo is able to be in the right place at the right time when the children will desperately need his protection later.

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Right after the snowfall (a very rare occurrence in Maycomb) struck the town, Miss Maudie's house caught on fire. Many people from the town showed up to fight the fire, and it seemed likely for a time that the sparks from the fire might catch the Finch's house on fire as well. The story is evidence of both Miss Maudie's courage and redoubtable nature as well as the superstitious nature of the people of Maycomb. They blame the snow and the fire on the behavior of the town's children. Coming shortly before the trial, the two odd events do seem to foreshadow the events that are to come. Miss Maudie, on the other hand, simply prepares herself to move on, claiming that she wanted a smaller house anyway. Miss Maudie is in many ways a central figure in the book. She is the person who explains why one shouldn't shoot a mockingbird:

Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

Her house burning down is also a pivotal event in the children's relationship with Boo Radley, who, it is discovered after the fact, put a blanket on Scout's shoulders as the townspeople battled the flames.

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, what happened to Miss Maudie's house and what was her reaction?

In chapter 8, Maycomb experiences its first snowfall since 1885, and the town ends up canceling school. Jem and Scout spend the day playing outside in the snow and even create a makeshift snowman out of dirt and a thin layer of snow. That night, Atticus wakes Jem and Scout and informs them that Miss Maudie's house is on fire. He then instructs Jem to stand with Scout in the Radley yard, which is a safe distance from the house fire. Both Jem and Scout watch from the Radley yard as their neighbors attempt to save Maudie's furniture before her home collapses in flames. Fortunately, no one is hurt, and the community is able to rescue some of Maudie's possessions before she loses her home.

The next morning, both Jem and Scout are surprised by Miss Maudie's positive attitude regarding the destruction of her home. When Jem tells Maudie that they are awfully sorry about her home, Maudie responds by saying,

Always wanted a smaller house, Jem Finch. Gives me more yard. Just think, I’ll have more room for my azaleas now!

Miss Maudie's reaction and composure following the tragic loss of her home illustrates her optimistic, appreciative personality.

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, what happened to Miss Maudie's house and what was her reaction?

In Chapter 8, Miss Maudie's house burns to the ground. According to Atticus, the house is all Miss Maudie had. Despite this fact, Miss Maudie is surprisingly optimistic, almost upbeat. She claims that with the old house gone, she can build a smaller house and have more room for her flowers. What is more surprising, and this shows how selfless Miss Maudie is, is that she doesn't wallow in her loss. In fact, she asks Scout about her encounter with Boo Radley the previous night (when the fire was burning).

Miss Maudie puzzled me. With most of her possessions gone and her beloved yard a shambles, she still took a lively interest in Jem's and my affairs.

Miss Maudie then tells Scout that she (Miss Maudie) was more worried about the commotion and possible distress the fire may have caused for other people. She's just thankful that the fire did not spread to other houses. This is another example of Miss Maudie's acute and optimistic perspective and it shows how she is always thinking of others.

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