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In To Kill a Mockingbird, identify the character you think served as an important...

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marianac | eNoter

Posted December 31, 2010 at 12:49 AM via web

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, identify the character you think served as an important mother figure for Jem and Scout.

With clear evidence from the novel, explain the important mother figure role this character filled for the Finch children.

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missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 31, 2010 at 1:34 AM (Answer #1)

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Calupurnia served as a mother figure in terms of discipline. This is the aspect of motherhood that most children remember well into their adulthood. We see this clearly as Calpurnia punishes Scout for not treating Walter Cunningham with respect at the dinner table. Cal removes Scout from the group and makes her eat by herself in the kitchen. Scout summed up this disciplinary figure in these words from chapter one:

She was always ordering me out of the kitchen, asking me why I couldn’t behave as well as Jem when she knew he was older, and calling me home when I wasn’t ready to come. Our battles were epic and one-sided. Calpurnia always won, mainly because Atticus always took her side. She had been with us ever since Jem was born, and I had felt her tyrannical presence as long as I could remember. (pg. 6)

In chapter 12, Calpurnia also performs the function of presenting the children. This is a fairly normal role for a mother, in this instance, Cal prepares them for church with her.

In terms of a woman who can advise and give clear instruction to the children about right and wrong and making good choices, Miss Maudie serves  the children as a mother-figure too. We see this prior to the trial and just after the trial as the kids fail to see their father as anything interesting. Maudie helps elevate the children's perspective of their father and offers insight and wisdom through stories.  In chapter 5, Scout articulates the nature of their relationship with Miss Maudie:

Jem and I had considerable faith in Miss Maudie. She had never told on us, had never played cat-and-mouse with us, she was not at all interested in our private lives. She was our friend

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 31, 2010 at 2:11 AM (Answer #2)

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While the character of Calpurnia, who substitutes for the housewife in the Finch home and acts as the nurturer and teaches Jem and Scout good manners and reinforces correct behavior, it is Miss Maudie of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird who performs the distinct maternal role of reinforcing the moral lessons that Atticus Finch wishes to teach the children in the heartfelt and sympathetic way that only a mother can. In short, she is the heart that belongs to the rational statements and actions of Atticus Finch.

For instance, it is Miss Maudie who drives home to the children the meaning of Atticus's pronouncement that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird as she explains to Jem and Scout why their father has cautioned them so:

Your father's right....Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.  They don't eaat 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.

Earlier, in Chapter 5, Miss Maudie also clarifies the case of Boo Radley and gives the children a reason not to bother Boo that appeals to their emotions--as a mother does--which affects them deeply, convincing them of the admonitions of Atticus by explaining what "a sad house" it is in which Boo resides, and if he is not crazy, he should be because

"The things that happen to people we never reall know.  What happens in houses behind closed doors, what secrets--:

So many times, Miss Maudie provides the comforting heart of the mother that softens the harsh rationality of the father.  For instance, while they have overheard Atticus tell his brother that he could not face his children if he did not do all he can to defend Tom Robinson, they are yet confused by the harsh words of the townspeople.  But, Miss Maudie puts everything into perspective, as a mother often can, by explaining the character of Atticus.  In Chapter 24 when she speaks with Aunt Alexandra, the children overhear her say,

"Have you ever thought of it this way, Alexandra?  Whether Maycomb knows it or not, we're paying the highest tribute we can pay a man.  We trust him to do right....the handful of people who say a fair trial is for everybody....The handful of people in this town with bacground...."

That Scout and Jem have instilled in them the lessons of Atticus by means of the tender understanding of the motherly Miss Maudie is evinced in Scout's words of the final chapter:

Atticus was right.  One time he said you never reall know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.  Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.

Atticus Finch imparts many lessons to his children, but it is the Miss Maudie who takes their hearts and brings them to the "porches" of understanding.

 

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