How does Mrs. Merriweather display her hypocrisy at the missionary meeting in the book To Kill A Mockingbird?

Expert Answers
huntress eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During the missionary meeting in chapter 24 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Mrs. Grace Merriweather, "the most devout lady in Maycomb" (263), waxes eloquent about "those poor Mrunas," an impoverished African tribe who were "crawling with yaws and earworms," had no sense of family, and "chewed up and spat out the bark of a tree into a communal pot to get drunk on it" (260-1). Mrs. Merriweather sings the praises (almost literally, as she works her voice histrionically, like a pipe organ) of J. Grimes Everett, a missionary who is living with them to convert them to Christianity. She says, "Oh child, those poor Mrunas.... Living in that jungle with nobody but J. Grimes Everett.... Not a while person'll go near 'em but that saintly J. Grimes Everett" (263). 

She brags about meeting this "saint" and how "the ladies of the Maycomb Alabama Methodist Episcopal Church South" are behind him "one hundred percent" (263-4) then--in addition to making decidedly un-saintly comments about "sulky darkies"--she comments to Mrs. Gertrude Farrow, "I tell you there are some good but misguided people in this town.... Folks in this town who think they're doing right, I mean. Now far be it from me to say who, but some of 'em in this town thought they were doing the right thing a while back, but all they did was stir 'em up...." She thus obliquely refers to Atticus's defense of Tom Robinson, in a missionary circle hosted by Atticus's sister, no less. Not only is she hypocritical--as she personally will have little to do with blacks, other than keep her own cook (Sophy) around "because this depression's on," and condemns Atticus for behaving similarly to her "saintly" J. Everett Grimes--but she's downright rude. 

Miss Maudie calls attention to this fact when she says, "His food doesn't stick going down, does it?" referring to Atticus, a comment similar to, "He can at least sleep at night, can't he?" simultaneously informing Mrs. Merriweather that they all know who she's talking about and putting her in her place.