In Chapter 24 of To Kill a Mockingbird, how do the ladies' attitudes about women contrast with Scout's sense of identity, and how do they relate to the theme of intolerence in the book?
Scout feels completely out of place at the Missionary Circle tea party; she would rather be swimming with Jem and Dill at Barker's Eddy, but since they are skinny-dipping, Scout is not invited. She is dressed in her pink Sunday best, part of Aunt Alexandra's "campaign to teach me to be a lady." But the Christian ladies soon show their un-Christian-like and unladylike ways. They laugh at Scout when she honestly answers that she is wearing her britches "under my dress," and then Miss Stephanie makes a joke at Scout's expense. It is only when "Miss Maudie's hand closed tightly on mine" does Scout feel she has one true friend in the room. The ladies of the circle seem perfectly willing to extend their charity to the "poor Mrunas" in Africa, but they have little respect for Scout or any of the Negro women in Maycomb. Mrs. Merriweather, "the most devout lady in Maycomb," refers to Tom Robinson's wife, Helen, as "that darky's wife" before insulting her own maid, Sophy. Mrs. Farrow, "the second most devout lady in Maycomb," follows by declaring that because of Negroes like Tom,
"...there's no lady safe in her bed these nights." (Chapter 24)
Mrs. Merriweather then turns her acid tongue against Atticus, stating--in front of his sister, Alexandra, and in his own house while eating the food he had purchased for the party--that
"... there are some good but misguided people in this town... (who) thought they were doing the right thing a while back, but all they did was stir 'em up." (Chapter 24)
Miss Maudie refuses to let Mrs. Merriweather's remark go unchallenged, angrily responding that Atticus's "food doesn't stick going down, does it?" Scout sees the "look of pure gratitude that Alexandra gave Maudie, and she suddenly "wondered at the world of women."
But I was more at home in my father's world... Ladies seemed to live in faint horror of men, seemed unwilling to approve wholeheartedly of them... there was something about them I instinctively liked... they weren't--
"Hypocrites..." (Chapter 24)