To Kill a Mockingbird

How does Harper Lee use the school setting to give the reader important exposition about Southern culture?

Chapter 2

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In Chapter 2, the description of Scout's first day allows Lee to provide a context for the events to follow by introducing some of the people and families of Maycomb County. By introducing Miss Caroline, who is like a foreigner in the school, Lee also reveals Maycomb culture to the reader. Maycomb county children are portrayed as a mainly poor, uneducated, rough, rural group ("most of them had chopped cotton and fed hogs from the time they were able to walk"), in contrast to Miss Caroline, who wears makeup and "looked and smelled like a peppermint drop." The chapter helps show that a certain amount of ignorance prevails in Maycomb County. The school system, as represented by Miss Caroline, is well-intentioned, but also somewhat powerless to make a dent in patterns of behavior which are deeply ingrained in the town's social fabric.