In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout the narrator gives us several fascinating descriptions of Calpurnia. Calpurnia is the Finches' cook but has worked for the family since before Jem and Scout's mother died, and since the death of their mother, she has also taken on the role of surrogate mother. Scout at first is not very fond of Calpurnia, but as she grows older and gets to know Calpurnia better, Scout's feelings change. The reader learns more about Calpurnia as Scout learns more about her.
In the very first chapter, Scout describes Calpurnia as being "something else," meaning unusual, and as being "all angles and bones," meaning very thin. Scout further narrates that she and Calpurnia frequently quarreled because Calpurnia was regularly shooing Scout out of the kitchen, asking her why she "couldn't behave as well as Jem," and telling her to come home when she "wasn't ready to come" (Ch. 1). In other words, Scout was young and felt she disliked Calpurnia because she objected to Calpurnia mothering her around. As Scout further phrases it, "Our battles were always epic and one-sided. Calpurnia always won, mainly because Atticus always took her side" (Ch. 1).
Yet, in the chapter in which Calpurnia brings the children to her church as guests so that she can keep on eye on the children while their father is away, Scout is given an opportunity to spend some time with Calpurnia, which allows Scout to see Calpurnia differently. First, Scout gets to witness Calpurnia being accosted by Lula, a woman from her church with obviously racist beliefs, and being bold enough to defend bringing white children to her church as her company. Then, Scout gets to witness Calpurnia's humility. On the way home from church, Calpurnia, Scout, and Jem start conversing about literacy when Jem notes that Calpurnia speaks proper English as opposed to many African Americans in Calpurnia's society who do not. Yet, the children also note that Calpurnia spoke, as Scout phrases it, "nigger-talk" with the folks in her church. When Scout asks why, Calpurnia's response reveals much about her sense of humility. Calpurnia explains that it would be out of place for her to speak like white people among her own kind and further says that just because you know something, doesn't mean you have to show all you know all the time, or, as Calpurnia phrases it, "It's not necessary to tell all you know. It's not ladylike" (Ch. 12). Furthermore, she explains that showing off what you know won't change other people's actions; they have to want to learn themselves. Calpurnia's awareness that it would not be helpful for her to show off all of her knowledge tells us what a humble, virtuous, and good-natured person she is. At this point in the book, Scout, along with the reader, has begun to see Calpurnia's good characteristics for she next asks Calpurnia permission to spend time with her at her own home.