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In To Kill a Mockingbird, how does Aunt Alexandra treat Calpurnia?

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ahyde92 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 11, 2009 at 10:16 AM via web

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, how does Aunt Alexandra treat Calpurnia?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 11, 2009 at 10:58 AM (Answer #1)

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Alexandra treats Calpurnia strictly as a black servant beneath Alexandra's station in life. When she comes to stay with Atticus and the children, Alexandra is sitting on the front porch when Calpurnia and the children come home to find her there. Alexandra's first words are "Put my bag in the front bedroom, Calpurnia." It was an order, not a request, and it was not preceeded by any recognition of Calpurnia as a person worth greeting. Without comment, Cal picks up the heavy bag and starts to take it inside before Jem takes it himself.

After living with Atticus for a while, Alexandra makes her feelings about Calpurnia quite clear. She disapproves of the children having gone to Calpurnia's church, and when Scout asks Atticus if she can go visit Calpurnia at her home, Alexandra intervenes before Atticus can even answer: "You may not."

This incident leads to an argument between Alexandra and Atticus. She insists that it is time for Calpurnia to leave, that she isn't needed anymore. Alexandra also suggests that Calpurnia isn't the proper person to influence Scout as she grows into a young lady. Atticus makes it clear that Calpurnia is one of their family and has done an excellent job in raising the children. Atticus ends the discussion just before Scout returns to the room: "And another thing, the children love her." Alexandra does not argue further, but Scout notices that her aunt is furious.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 11, 2009 at 11:04 AM (Answer #2)

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In Chapter 13 of "To Kill a Mockingbird" when Aunt Alexandra arrives at the Finch home she says abruptly, "Put my bag in the front bedroom, Calpurnia."  This order without a "hello" indicates Aunt Alexandra's perception of Calpurnia as a mere servant.  After settling into the family, Aunt Alexandra invites her Missionary Society to have refreshments, but she prohibits Calpurnia from making "the delicacies required to sustain the Society through long reports." 

When Aunt Alexandra hears that the children have been to Calpurnia's church, she is outraged and refuses to allow them to return:  "You may not."  When Scout becomes angry by this statement, Atticus intervenes.  But, Aunt Alexandra tells her brother that Calpurnia should be dismissed.  "We don't need her now."  With an "even voice," Atticus informs his sister that Calpurnia is a "faithful member of this family" and they need her as much as ever.  This retort to Aunt Alexandra infuriates her.

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