What is Calpurnia's best character trait in To Kill a Mockingbird? (Please explain why this is her best trait). 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One opinion on Calpurnia's best, or most admirable, character trait points to her ability to bridge the gap between the two races. This is a valuable attribute because it keeps Calpurnia from becoming involved in conflicts.

A valued member of the Finch household, Calpurnia is a housekeeper, surrogate mother, and friend, who is respected by both white and black members of the community. In addition to cooking and cleaning for the Finches, Calpurnia teaches Scout handwriting, good manners, respect for others, and some understanding of people of color.

  • Surrogate mother

When Walter Cunningham accepts Jem's invitation to lunch in Chapter 3, Scout is appalled when he pours molasses on his vegetables and meat; she asks him, "What the sam hill are you doing?!" This embarrasses Walter and he stops what he is doing and lowers his head; immediately, Calpurnia takes Scout to the kitchen where she berates her. Calpurnia explains that some folks do not eat as they do. Furthermore, Walter is their guest and "if he wants to eat up the table cloth you let him, you hear?" When Scout contradicts, "He ain't company, Cal, he's just a Cunningham--" Calpurnia orders her to be quiet and to finish her lunch in the kitchen since she is bringing disgrace to her father with her airs and uncharitable remarks.
Later, when Scout returns home, Calpurnia bends down and kisses her after making crackling bread for the children, and tells Scout that she has missed her, letting the girl know that she still loves her.
Later on, when Calpurnia notices Tim Johnson staggering with rabies, she has Atticus called to come and resolve the situation. This situation affords Atticus the opportunity to display his skill with a rifle, and the children are impressed. More importantly, Cal has insured the children against danger by having called Mr. Finch.

  • Friend

Calpurnia displays her love for the Finch children when she takes them to church with her in Chapter 12. Her act of bringing white children into an African-American church infuriates Lula, but the Reverend Sykes and others welcome them. This gesture of Calpurnia's affords Jem and Scout to see and understand Cal's other life as a member of the black community, as well as demonstrating that Atticus Finch, who acts as the defense attorney for Tom Robinson, is a man without prejudice because if he were, he would not have allowed his children to accompany Cal. 
After Tom Robinson is shot at the jail, Atticus asks Calpurnia to accompany him to the Robinson house where he must tell Helen the tragic news. Cal remains behind to console Helen and help Helen with the children while Atticus and the children drive home

  • Housekeeper/servant

Calpurnia does not forget her position in the Finch household, although she is loved as a family member. When Aunt Alexandra arrives, she is treated unfairly, but Calpurnia does not demur. Alexandra's insistence that Calpurnia be let go is met with strong resistance by her brother:

"Calpurnia's not leaving this household until she wants to. She's a faithful member of this family, and you'll simply have to accept things the way they are....We still need Cal as much as we ever did."

Atticus praises her and tells his sister that the children love her; nevertheless, Aunt Alexandra forbids Calpurnia from making the refreshments and serving her guests the first time she entertains. However, by Chapter 24, Calpurnia, in a starched apron, serves the guests at the Missionary Tea, so she has earned the respect of Aunt Alexandra.

As a surrogate mother, housekeeper, and friend, Calpurnia certainly bridges the racial gap of Maycomb in the Finch household because she brings common sense, love, and friendship to every action that she takes as well as the words she speaks.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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