In Chapter 24 of To Kill A Mockingbird, what is the purpose of Aunt Alexandra's tea party?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
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In Chapter 24 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Aunt Alexandra's tea party is ostensibly for the purpose of discussion of the missionary objectives of the ladies of the Maycomb Alabama Methodist Episcopal Church South. However, the ladies, who are as pretentious as the name of their church, mainly congregate for social purposes.
Chapter 24 is an effective chapter in Harper Lee's portrayal of the hypocrisy present in the society of Maycomb: Calpurnia, who is good enough to cook for the Finch family is not allowed to make the teacakes for the ladies of the church. Scout is made to wear a dress and act like a lady before Mrs. Merriweather and the others, the ladies have an African mission to which they send aid, but Mrs. Merriweather complains about her maid Sophy who "grumbles" and act in an "unChristian" manner. Yet, she merely pays the woman a dollar and a quarter every week. Moreover, while they have their religious meeting, the women mainly gossip.
This chapter is what is known as a "set piece," a scene meant to stand alone, and is used by Lee to portray the racial prejudices of the Maycomb elite.
This 'tea party' is seen primarily as an opportunity for Aunt Alexandra not only to prove her ability to adapt to Maycomb but also to upgrade her own social status. The ladies of this 'Missionary Society of Maycomb' meet daily to denigrate the innocent African-Americans who constantly face such treatment.
Mrs. Meriweather, a devoted member of the Missionary Society continues to mention the 'Mrunas', a certain African-American tribe that apparently lives in 'squalor' and 'sin'. She continues to praise Mr. J. Grimes Everett who is the savior that is attempting to rid this tribe of their evils and incorporate the loving pureness of Christianity into the 'Mrunas'. Yet, extreme hypocrisy is demonstrated as this situation relates to the prejudiced views whites of Maycomb hold toward African-Americans. The African-Americans in Maycomb, though considerably cleaner and more civilized in a sense, are treated with similar disgust and unreasonable hatred by the white racist community in Maycomb. Mrs. Meriweather preaches zealously of the joys Christianity has brought to all lives yet does nothing to 'improve' the everlasting misery African-Americans are forced to endure because of the folly stereotypical views held towards all African-Americans. She criticizes Atticus's actions to defend Tom Robinson yet devotes herself to the cause of J. Grimes Everett furthermore illustrating the lewd hypocrisy society has adapted to over a period of time.
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