to kill a mockingbirdwhy was Calpurnia, a black woman, treated with such respect in the Finch household?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For decades in the 1900s, it was not uncommon for white families to employ black maids.  These maids, who lived in the house of their employer, or in small, attached buildings called the "servants' quarters, were virtually considered a part of the family.  Often the maid was very actively engaged in the rearing of the children and became a respected member of the household.  Yet, at the same time, there was an invisible line drawn that the servant did not cross.  While the maid would take the children to school or to town to the grocery store,  she should not take the children into her neighborhood where her church is, also.

Atticus Finch is a maverick in his ideas during the setting of Harper Lee's novel.  For, he does not mind that Calpurnia escorts the children to her church, while such behavior is seen as taboo by Aunt Alexandra and other "ladies."

anthonda49 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The South in the time of the story was primarily of the Baptist religion. The Baptists believed that playing cards, and especially gambling, was a sin. It was not tolerated. Dill said the children were playing strip poker, but not for money, for matches. The matches supposedly made it a safer lie. Matches would be like earning points instead of money.

Atticus does not want the children playing the Boo Radley game because everyone in the neighborhood can tell exactly what they were play acting about. Atticus said Boo deserved privacy and should not have this event, which was best forgotten, played out in front of the neighborhood.

lfawley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the other posters. Calpurnia was treated as an equal because Atticus had risen above racism. He did not believe that people should be judged based on the color of their skin or the money that they had in their pockets. He treated all people with the same degree of respect and humanity. This was something that he wanted his children to learn as well. He acted the way that he did toward Calpurnia so that his children would, in turn, learn to look beyond the surface and see the person who lies beneath. In all relationships and in all dealings with other people, this was Atticus' manner.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Harper Lee's masterpiece had serious purpose to contribute to the changing of an idea among a generation. She had to do this in a variety of ways, she used theme and plot very effectively with the trial. However, to create a piece that would present appropriate race relationships under all circumstances AND to give Atticus a true to life character, she had to present Calpurnia as a member of the family. She gave Cal a credibility that we all should assume people of all races deserve no matter their race or SES.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus was pretty much color blind when it came to races. Calpurnia had been the family housekeeper since the children were born, and apparently Atticus thought she did such a proper job of acting as surrogate mother that he kept her on. She was like a member of the family and helped teach the children; Calpurnia was educated and literate, and Scout claims that Calpurnia taught her how to write in cursive.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus believes in the value of people...regardless of color, gender, race, education, etc.  He attempts to instill these same values in the children which is why they sit with the black people in the balcony during Tom's trial and why they are so incensed at the injustice of the verdict.  Aside from Atticus' sister, the Finches are, for all practical purposes, colorblind.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus was progressive with regard to his recognition that quality character is not indicated by skin tone or economic status. However, Calpurnia was family, so I’m not sure that race was even an issue in the Finch household. Lee also uses this positive female role model as a foil for Aunt Alexandria.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my opinion, it is because the Finch family (under the influence of Atticus) is actually pretty progressive on racial issues for their time and place.  Atticus is really pretty strict about making sure his kids don't see themselves as better than others...

tayler22 | Student

What color is the finch house?


magz-01 | Student

Can someone please answer some questions im doing for a year 10 english assignment.

Why do the children make boo's story into a game? 

What might be the cause of laughter coming from inside the house??

Descrine miss maudie atkinson, how typical is she of maycombs women and what do the children think of her??

What does Miss Maudie tell Scout about Boo?? How does this compare with what Scout already believes??

What reasons does Atticus give for the children to not play the Boo Radley game?? Do you think he is right?? Why??

Why goes Dill's explaination of jem's state of dress almost land him in trouble??

If anyone can help i would be grateful as i dont fully understand some of the book even thou i have read it over and over again, thanks.

krishna-agrawala | Student

Finch household, and particularly Atticus Finch judged people based on their behaviour and capabilities rather than the colour of their skin or any other social classifications. Finch household, respected Calpurina for her capability and sincerity. The fact that she was a very capable housekeeper or cook was only one of her minor qualities. Much more important was that she had a highly developed idea of right and wrong behaviour and took pains to inculcate these ideas in Jem and Scout. In this way she acted almost like a mother to them.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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