What insights do Jem and Scout gain from attending church with Calpurnia and why is it special to Calpurnia in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Above all else, Jem and Scout gain valuable insight to the very different lives of Maycomb's African-American population. Calpurnia is obviously very proud of the Finch children and makes sure that they are looking their best when they arrive at First Purchase A.M.E. She is also very proud of her church, and though it is not mentioned much in the novel, Calpurnia is a spiritual person whose church life plays a major part of her life. Calpurnia takes the children specifically because Atticus is out of town, and she does not trust the kids to attend their own church unsupervised.

Among the things that the children learn during their visit:

  • The definition of "linin'," in which the mostly illiterate congregation repeats the lines of each hymn after they are read to them.
  • Why there are no hymnals (most of the congregation can't read, and they can't afford them anyway).
  • That at least one person (specifically Lula) does not appreciate the appearance of white faces at the church.
  • That everyone else is respectful to them.
  • That Reverend Sykes is quite persistent in raising the $10 collection to go to Tom Robinson's family.
  • That they enjoy their visit with Cal so much that Scout wants to visit their housekeeper at her home as well.
  • That people (be they black or white) are just people.

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