In To Kill a Mockingbird, why does Calpurnia take the children to her church? What do they learn about the Tom Robinson case?  

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engtchr5's profile pic

engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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When Atticus is out of town on business, Calpurnia takes Jem and Scout to church with her. When the children attend First Purchase AME church, they learn of the respect that the African-American community has for their father.

That respect has been generated by the fact that Atticus is representing Tom Robinson, who attends First Purchase as a regular member. The congregation is taking up an offering to help support Tom's family during his trial. Only one woman, Lula, questions Cal about bring "white chillun" to the all-black church. Calpurnia responds with, "It's the same God, ain't it?"

The children's experience at the church makes for one of the more memorable scenes in this novel, as they come to the understanding that, despite racial differences, people's experiences are greatly similar.

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mrshh | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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In the midst of the summertime, "the state legislature was called into emergency session and Atticus left... for two weeks."  When Sunday came around, Calpurnia was faced with a dilemma.  Atticus usually escorted his children to Sunday School to make sure that the teacher was there.  He did this because of a previous incident when "the class tied Eunice Ann Simpson to a chair and placed her in the furnace room."  Calpurnia did not trust Scout and Jem to go to church and Sunday School on their own.  She decided that the best way to solve this problem was to take them to her own church, which was the "First Purchase African M.E. Church."

In preparation for the visit to her church, Calpurnia "made [Scout] soap all over twice, drew fresh water in the tub for each rinse..., stuck [her] head in the basin and washed it with Octagon soap and castile."  She even checked on Jem to make sure he was clean enough.  She also saw that they wore ironed and starched clothes.  

At the church, most of the congregants were welcoming to Scout and Jem.  Some were hesitant about them being there.  The Reverend Sykes explained that they were taking up a collection of money for Tom Robinson's family.  His wife had to work to support their three children.  She was having trouble finding a job because of her husband going to jail for rape.  Without work, they were not able to get by without the collection.

tinicraw's profile pic

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

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When the state legislature calls a special session on a Sunday, Calpurnia isn't sure what to do with the kids. Usually, Atticus makes sure that their Sunday School teacher will be there so the kids don't act up, but he didn't do that this time, so Calpurnia is in a bind. Calpurnia can't go to the children's church because blacks and whites are segregated at this time. She can, however, take the kids to her church because, first, they're children; and second, Atticus has the respect of the black community for taking Tom Robinson's case seriously. Still, it is pretty risky for her to take the children to her church. Luckily, the reaction of Calpurnia's people to the children is pretty good.

"When they saw Jem and me with Calpurnia, the men stepped back and took off their hats; the women crossed their arms at their waists, weekday gestures of respectful attention" (118).

Other than Lula, who asks Calpurnia why she brought white children to their church, everyone is respectful. It is interesting to note that the children also learn about Tom Robinson's family at the church that day. Reverend Sykes asks for a collection of $10.00 for the Robinson family because Tom is in jail and Helen can't find work to feed her three children. The kids would not have found out this information any other way. Also, this is the first time Scout hears the word rape. Calpurnia tells Scout to ask her father about it.


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