Compare the two characters Calpurnia and Scout, and explain what they symbolize to each other.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Calpurnia is the Finch family's African American cook, who acts as Scout and Jem's surrogate mother. As a child, Scout struggles to get along with Calpurnia and continually gets on her nerves. In the first chapter of the story, Scout describes Cal by saying,

She had been with us ever since Jem was born, and I had felt her tyrannical presence as long as I could remember. (3)

Unlike many African American cooks, Cal is not afraid to chastise or correct the children and is a rather strict authoritarian. Despite Cal's stern attitude, she demonstrates compassion for Scout and genuinely cares about the children. To Scout, Calpurnia symbolically represents unquestionably authority as well as a compassionate mother figure.

Although Scout is not Calpurnia's child, she raises her as one of her own and truly loves her. Cal demonstrates her love for Scout by consoling her during difficult times, honestly answering her questions, and rewarding her for positive behavior. Even though Scout misbehaves and struggles to control her emotions, Cal exercises patience and tolerance. To Cal, Scout symbolically represents a tender heart and innocent spirit. Cal recognizes that Scout is a naive, charismatic girl, who is experiencing a rather turbulent childhood. Cal does her best to raise Scout as one of her children and genuinely cares about her.

Cal and Scout also share some similarities and are both bold, outspoken females who have loving hearts. Cal and Scout are also intelligent and have ties to both the white and black communities. Cal is one of the few educated black citizens in town, and Scout demonstrates her intelligence by gaining perspective on her community following the Tom Robinson trial.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial