In To Kill a Mockingbird, what do you think Scout means when she says, “Ladies in bunches always filled me with vague apprehension and a firm desire to be elsewhere”? Why would groups of ladies have this effect on her?

Expert Answers

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

Scout , a tomboy of about nine years old when she says the above-mentioned quote, is used to hanging out with her brother, other boys, and her father for the most part. She's a down-to-earth girl who learns to read before she goes to school and to think for herself....

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Scout, a tomboy of about nine years old when she says the above-mentioned quote, is used to hanging out with her brother, other boys, and her father for the most part. She's a down-to-earth girl who learns to read before she goes to school and to think for herself. Miss Maudie, her neighbor, also teaches Scout good morals and how to see through the world's facades and prejudices. But after Scout's Aunt Alexandra comes to live with them, the world of women in groups comes to her house in the form of a missionary circle, and it is not something she is used to being around. Scout shows the reader in chapter 24 of To Kill a Mockingbird what her Aunt Alexandra does and says while in the company of other women, which is far out of Scout's realm of understanding and makes her feel uncomfortable.

First of all, Scout is made to wear a pretty, pink dress while the neighborhood ladies are over for the meeting. When Aunt Alexandra asks Scout to stay during the refreshments portion of the afternoon, Scout chooses to sit by Miss Maudie. Feeling safe by Miss Maudie, Scout wonders "why ladies put on their hats to go across the street." This thought proves that Scout doesn't understand the ways of women in groups because she hasn't experienced these little parties before her Aunt came to town. Scout then goes on to discuss the fact that she notices the make-up, perfume, clothing, nail polish, and other womanly decorations that adorn the guests. It is at that point Miss Maudie asks Scout where her britches are and Scout says, "Under my dress."

The women laugh, but this shows that Aunt Alexandra can dress Scout up in pink all she wants, but Scout is still clinging onto her childhood underneath it all. Scout isn't ready to turn into the little princess that Aunt Alexandra wants her to be. Scout still has her mind in her childhood even though her aunt wants her body in the world of grown up women.

As most children do, Scout compares herself to the women in her home. She probably wonders if she will ever wear a hat to cross the street and put on perfume just to sit in a room full of women. She relates the story of that afternoon with these women and comes to the following conclusion:

But I was more at home in my father's world. People like Mr. Heck Tate did not trap you with innocent questions to make fun of you; even Jem was not highly critical unless you said something stupid. Ladies seemed to live in faint horror of men, seemed unwilling to approve wholeheartedly of them. But I liked them. There was something about them, no matter how much they cussed and drank and gambled and chewed; . . . there was something about them that I instinctively liked . . . they weren't—

"Hypocrites, Mrs. Perkins, born hypocrites," Mrs. Merriweather was saying.

The above-quoted passage shows how Scout eventually discovers that the main reason she approves of men more than women is that men aren't hypocrites. Therefore, Scout doesn't like being with groups of women not only because they make fun of her but because she doesn't like being around hypocrites.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team