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Chapter 3

Professor Bradley Greenburg from Northeastern Illinois University explains Chapter 3 in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill a Mockingbird | Chapter 3 | Summary

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Summary

In the playground Scout takes her frustrations out on Walter Cunningham for the morning's mishaps. Jem stops her, realizing that Walter is the son of a man that Atticus defended in court. He invites the boy home with him and Scout for lunch. Walter is so hesitant at first that Jem and Scout leave, but he soon catches up to join them. At home the day doesn't get much better for Scout. When she questions Walter as to why he's pouring syrup on his food, Calpurnia calls her to the kitchen and scolds her for embarrassing their guest. When Scout tries defending herself by saying he's "just a Cunningham" and not company, Calpurnia banishes her to the kitchen to eat alone.

As the boys head back to school Scout stays behind to seek comfort from Atticus. She tells him that Calpurnia likes Jem better and asks Atticus to fire her. Atticus tells Scout that Jem gives Calpurnia less to worry about and makes it clear that he has no intention of firing Calpurnia, explaining that the family wouldn't survive a single day without her.

Back at school Miss Caroline goes into a panic when she spots lice on a student's head. She asks the student, Burris Ewell, to go home and treat his condition so that the rest of the class doesn't get infected. Burris laughs at her suggestion, informing her that he won't be coming back. One of the older students explains that Burris is like all the other Ewell kids: they attend school the first day to keep the truant officer happy but do not come again. Miss Caroline asks Burris to sit down, but he begins shouting vile insults at her and eventually drives the young teacher to tears.

When the school day is over Scout is pleasantly surprised by Calpurnia's kindness when she gets home. After supper Atticus asks her to read with him, but Scout explains that her teacher told her to stop doing that. Scout asks if she can be like Burris Ewell and just go to school the first day and not go back.

Atticus explains that the Ewells are a special case because people have become blind to the way they live. Everyone feels so badly for the children that they allow the father, Bob Ewell, to hunt for food outside of hunting season. But everyone else, including the Finches, have to live inside the law, and that's why Scout must continue going to school.

In the end Atticus strikes a deal with Scout: she continues going to school, and they'll continue reading together at night just as they always have.

Analysis

It may have been Scout's first day of school, but her most valuable lessons occur outside the classroom. For instance, when she refers to Walter Cunningham as "just a Cunningham" and not a guest, Calpurnia is quick to point out that everyone deserves respect, no matter their social status. Scout's first day in the classroom begins her exposure to just how socially divided the small town of Maycomb really is.

Maycomb's social division becomes even more apparent in the incident with Burris Ewell, the student with lice. His behavior toward Miss Caroline foreshadows the kind of interactions one can expect from the Ewells. Later in the book, particularly during the trial, it becomes clear just how backward the Ewells are in society.

In Chapter 3 Atticus's appreciation of Calpurnia also is made clear. It is already evident that Atticus is a loving father; this chapter provides insight into his attitude toward race.

Documents for Chapter 3

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Questions for Chapter 3

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Using what you have learned in Ch 3. Summarizing and Responding , I would like you to summarize Richard Rodriguez's opening for his book, Brown . I'm not sure your experience with writing summaries, b
Learning Resources Note: To access this week’s required library resources, please click on the link to the Course Readings List, found in the Course Materials section of your Syllabus. Required Readin
Choose one of the readings from chapters 2-6 and summarize, explain, and evaluate the main points of the reading in a minimum of 3 paragraphs. Do not simply cut and paste from the reading, but summari
DIRECT QUOTES. THEN, FOR EACH ITEM BELOW, WRITE ACCURATE, OR INACCURATE, AND THEN, EXPLAIN WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE STATEMENT, DEPENDING ON THE SPECIFIC TIPS YOU HAVE READ AND STUDIED ABOVE. 1. In my op
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