How does Miss Maudie challenge the societal norms of a Southern woman?

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huntress eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The societal norms of a Southern woman are generally shown through Miss Stephanie, who the children don't care for. She goes around the neighborhood "doing good," but Miss Maudie doesn't (50). She doesn't go to church, either, and even has an exchange with a woman on the morning the trial starts. The woman says, "He that cometh in vanity departeth in darkness!" and Miss Maudie replies, "A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance." Scout observes that "for someone who spent all the daylight hours outdoors, Miss Maudie's command of Scripture was formidable" (181). 

While Miss Stephanie pries into the lives of others and gossips, Miss Maudie is respectful. When Bob Ewell spits on Atticus downtown after the trial, Miss Stephanie is "trembling with excitement" to tell the children what had happened. In contrast, when Scout asks Miss Maudie about Boo, Miss Maudie doesn't spread or even encourage the sort of gossip Miss Stephanie apparently thrives on; she gives straightforward answers, without embellishment (50-51).

In addition, she doesn't talk around subjects the way her peers do in Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle. When Mrs. Merriweather hints that Atticus had thought he was doing right, but he'd just given "them" ideas, Miss Maudie sticks up for him, refusing to let Mrs. Merriweather get away with her implied nastiness. She says, "His food doesn't stick going down, does it?" suggesting that if Mrs. Merriweather's doesn't, it should. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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