To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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How would you write and introduction on the portrayal of Mrs. Merriweather of To Kill a Mockingbird? (Themes such as hypocrisy, class division and superficiality are to be involved in the main body of the essay.)

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Bruce Bergman eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Mrs. Merriweather is the character in the novel who, for me, is the fullest articulation of the hypocrisy and "innocent" racism of the Maycomb community. 

Merriweather believes that she is dedicated to a good cause, yet she espouses great emotional ignorance and indifference to the 1) the people in her household and 2) the people sitting in the room with her.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is a challenging assignment since Mrs. Merriweather is a minor character who only appears in a couple of chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Known as "the most devout woman in Maycomb," Mrs. Grace Merriweather is a member of the Missionary Circle of the Maycomb Alabama Methodist Episcopal Church South, of which Scout's Aunt Alexandra (as well as Misses Maudie, Stephanie and Rachel) is also a member. She gives a moving speech on the trials and tribulations of the Mruna tribe of Africa--godless and living in "sin and squalor." Her hero seems to be the missionary J. Grimes Everett, "the only white person" who would go near the Mrunas. She had met him herself, and she assured Everett that the ladies of her church were behind him "one hundred percent."

However, Mrs. Merriweather seemed to show little concern about Maycomb's own black citizens. During a break between speeches while enjoying refreshments, Scout overhears Mrs. Merriweather making derogatory remarks about Tom Robinson's wife, Helen; later, she refers to her maid, Sophy, as a "sulky darky," wondering aloud why she hasn't already fired her. But when Mrs. Merriweather begins talking about the "misguided people" who defend black people, who would "stir 'em up"--meaning Atticus--Miss Maudie steps in with an icy retort.

"His food doesn't stick going down, does it?"  

Mrs. Merriweather continued her diatribe, calling white people who tried to help blacks as "hypocrites... born hypocrites." She is proud of the separation of the races that endures in the South, but it is obvious that the biggest hyprocite in the room is Grace Merriweather.

Other facts we discover about Mrs. Merriweather:

  • One of her kin, sixteen-year-old Sam Merriweather, committed suicide; however, it may not have been her son, since Scout described her as being childless.
  • One of Aunt Alexandra's dictum's was that "Every Third Merriweather is Morbid."
  • She "sips gin out of Lydia E. Pinkham bottles" and "her mother did the same," according to Aunt Alexandra.
  • Town gossip has it that she "sobered" up her husband and "made a useful citizen out of him."
  • She had large brown eyes, black curls, and "played her voice like an organ."

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