Calpurnia is more than a mother figure, she represents what it means to be a civilised person. How is this portrayed?What themes and quotes could I use to answer this?

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schulzie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. Calpurnia is educated, but she doesn't throw it in other's faces.  She realizes that people have their pride.  By educated, I mean that she can read, write, and speak both "white people's English" and the black dialect.  When the children go to church with her, she tells them that they sing their hymns the way they do because most of the members do not know how to read. When the children ask her why she talks "nigger talk" to her folks when it's not right, she answers,

"Suppose you and Scout talked colored-folk talk at home, it'd be out of place, wouldn't it?  Now what if I talked white-folks talk at church, and with my neighbors?  They think I was puttin on airs to beat Moses...It's not necessary to tell all you know.  It's not ladylike--in the second place, folks don't like to have somebody around knowin' more than they do...You're not gonna change them by talkin' right, they've got to want to learn themselves, and when they don't want to learn there's nothing you can do but keep your mouth shut or talk their language." (pg 126)

She taught her son Zeebo how to read and Scout how to write. Scout says,

"Miss Caroline caught me writing and told me to tell my father to stop teaching me...Calpurnia was to blame for this.  It kept me from driving her crazy on rainy days, I guess.  She would set me a writing task by scrawling the alphabet firmly across the top of a tablet then copying out a chapter of the Bible beneath.  If I reproduced her penmanship satisfactorily, she rewarded me..." (pg 18-19)

2. Calpurnia looks out for everyone.  When the mad dog is seen in the street, Calpurnia first calls Mr. Finch and the sheriff, but then she calls the operator again and tells her to warn all the neighbors.  She knows that the Radleys probably don't have a phone, so she risks her own safety and runs over to their place to make them aware of the mad dog.

3. When Tom Robinson is killed, Atticus comes to Calpurnia to bring her to Helen Robinson for support. 

"Dill said Calpurnia and Atticus lifted Helen to her feet and half carried, half walked her to the cabin.  They stayed inside a long time, and Atticus came out alone." (pg 240)

4. Calpurnia was a religious woman and had a high sense of morals.  She taught Jem, Scout, and her son out of the Bible.  And when the children went to the courthouse to see the trial,

"Calpurnia marched us home: "--skin every one of you alive, the very idea, you children listenin' to all that!  Mister Jem, don't you know better'n to take your little sister to that trial?  ...Ain't fittin for children to hear." (pg 207)

Atticus thinks that her ideals are pretty good also.  He says,

"She's tried to bring them up according to her lights, and Cal's lights are pretty good..." (pg 137)

5. Calpurnia understands social graces and correct behavior.  When Scout treats Walter Cunningham poorly during lunch, Calpurnia tells her,

"Don't matter who they are, anybody sets foot in this house's you' comp'ny, and don't you let me catch you remarkin' on their ways like you was so high and mighty. Yo' folks might be better'n the Cunninghams but it don't count for nothin' the way you're disgracin' 'em..." (pg 24-25)

The quotes are from my edition of the book, but the pages should be in close proximity.



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To Kill a Mockingbird

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