In chapter 24 of To Kill a Mockingbird, what are the Maycomb ladies like? In what ways is Miss Maudie different?
Chapter 24 revolves around Aunt Alexandra's missionary meeting, which includes many prominent women of Maycomb. Miss Maudie is invited over for refreshments, and in proper social form, she attends even though she does not go to the same church as these women. Be that as it may, all of these women are self-proclaimed Christians who want to assist in any way that they can to improve their community by helping others. This seems all well and good until they start talking and showing their prejudice. For instance, Mrs. Merriweather believes Tom Robinson's trial did not help the situation in Maycomb, saying,
"Now far be it from me to say who, but some of 'em in this town thought they were doing the right thing a while back, but all they did was stir 'em up. That's all they did. Might've looked like the right thing to do at the time, I'm sure I don't know. . . but sulky. . . dissatisfied. . . I tell you if my Sophy'd kept it up another day I'd have let her go. It's never entered that wool of hers that the only reason I keep her is because this depression's on and she needs her dollar and a quarter every week she can get it" (233).
Break down Mrs. Merriweather's comments above, and one can see at whom she points her blaming finger for the "dissatisfied" African Americans in the community after the trial that summer. She doesn't say it explicitly, but Mrs. Merriweather seems to blame Atticus, and possibly others like Judge Taylor, for thinking "they were doing the right thing." Mrs. Merriweather's main complaint is the fact that her cook, Sophy, was "sulky" in the days following the trial. She also worries that if everyone in the African American community is upset and "sulky," then the status quo of Maycomb may unravel.
Miss Maudie, on the other hand, does not agree with or believe in the same issues as Mrs. Merriweather and the other women at the party. Like a true, well-mannered lady, Miss Maudie holds her tongue for most of the discussion while the finger pointing reveals the women's petty prejudices. By the time Mrs. Merriweather brings up Sophy, though, Miss Maudie interjects and the following exchange occurs:
"His food doesn't stick going down, does it?"
Miss Maudie said it. Two tight lines had appeared at the corners of her mouth. . .
"Maudie, I'm sure I don't know what you mean," said Mrs. Merriweather.
"I'm sure you do," Miss Maudie said shortly (233).
Miss Maudie is quick, to the point, and saucy. She does not debate the issue with Mrs. Merriweather, she simply calls her out and drops it. Scout explains Miss Maudie's remark as follows:
She said no more. When Miss Maudie was angry her brevity was icy. Something had made her deeply angry, and her gray eyes were as cold as her voice. Mrs. Merriweather reddened glanced at me, and looked away (233).
From Scout's explanation, Miss Maudie is angry with the women and shows her disapproval with a biting remark. As a result, the prejudiced and judgmental discussion stops, and Aunt Alexandra can intervene by handing out more refreshments and changing the subject. Scout notices that Aunt Alexandra shoots a look of gratitude towards Miss Maudie in the process, which shows that not only can Miss Maudie shut another woman up with "her brevity," but she can also do it with dignity and help Aunt Alexandra in the process. The other women in the room, however, are neither ladylike nor dignified. They can dress up in nice clothes and hats and talk about being Christians all day long, but deep down, they are prejudiced and judgmental hypocrites.
The other ladies of Maycomb, like Aunt Alexandra, Mrs. Merriweather, Mrs. Perkins, and Mrs. Farrow, are highly judgmental and hypocritical. They all agree that it is important to help those who are less fortunate than others, particularly the Mrunas, yet when it comes to groups in Maycomb that need their help, in particular Tom Robinson's family, they are less than Christian.
Mrs. Merriweather even believes that things will calm down once the white people of Maycomb can forgive that "darky's wife," as though Helen Robinson has done anything wrong. Miss Maudie shows her integrity and courage when she essentially calls every single one of the women out, particularly Mrs. Merriweather, who claims that the only reason she keeps her black cook is because the depression is on. Miss Maudie makes a point to note that neither Mr. nor Mrs. Merriweather have any trouble enjoying the food Sophy cooks.
The women in Maycomb hold some of the prejudices found within the town and unlike them, Miss Maudie shares similiar characteristics with Atticus. She does believe that someone should be faulted based on their race which differentiates her from other ladies. WHen her house got burnt she viewed it as an optimistic thing instead of lamenting it which showcases who she is.