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Calpurnia is the faithful and beloved Finch family cook and housekeeper in Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout initially believes that Cal favors her brother, Jem, but she soon grows to understand and respect her much in the same way as her father, Atticus. She has been with the family since before the death of Scout's mother, and in addition to her duties around the house, Calpurnia exercises discipline, including keeping the two children from being too noisy during the last days of the dying Mr. Radley.
"There goes the meanest man ever God blew breath into," murmered Calpurnia, and she spat meditatively into the yard. We looked at her in surprise, for Calpurnia rarely commented on the ways of white people.
Scout describes Atticus as playful and courteous, but "Calpurnia was something else again."
She was all angles and bones... nearsighted... she squinted; her hand was wide as a bed slat and twice as hard. She was always ordering me out of the kitchen, asking me why I couldn't behave as well as Jem... calling me home when I wasn't ready to come. Our battles were epic and one-sided. Calpurnia always won, mainly because Atticus always took her side... and I had felt her tyrannical presence as long as I could remember.
Based solely on Scout's narration from Chapter 1, we are introduced to "Calpurnia our cook." Where Atticus is described as "satisfactory" and "courteous,"
Calpurnia was something else again.
Nearsighted with a squint, the African-American Calpurnia is apparently quite thin; Scout calls her bony. She uses her large hands for more than just housework, because Scout has apparently felt their hardness across her backside. Cal is undefeated in her battles with the children, since Atticus always takes her side on the issues. She has held a "tyrannical presence" in the Finch home ever since Jem was born. Though she rarely "commented on the ways of white people," Cal calls their neighbor, Mr. Nathan Radley, "the meanest man ever God blew breath into." She spat when she said it.
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