In To Kill a Mockingbird what is a simile that Scout uses to describe Calpurnia? 

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, the young narrator of Harper Lee’s coming-of-age novel To Kill a Mockingbird, employs a myriad of adjectives to describe the actions and appearance of her family’s African American housekeeper, Calpurnia.

Calpurnia, or Cal, plays a significant role in the lives of the Finch family. She serves as a substitute mother for the children of the widowed Atticus. She cleans the family’s home, cooks their meals, and supervises Scout and her older brother Jem. So integral to the family’s existence is Calpurnia that Atticus repeatedly rebuffs Aunt Alexandra’s efforts at having the housekeeper fired.

In Chapter 12 of To Kill a Mockingbird, the section of the novel in which Calpurnia takes Jem and Scout to her church, Scout observes Calpurnia change her use of the English language to fit in among the town’s African American community. The literate housekeeper normally speaks in “proper” English, but she uses the local dialect among other African Americans. Commenting upon this discovery of Calpurnia’s “modest double life,” Scout states, “The idea that she had a separate existence outside our household was a novel one, to say nothing of her having command of two languages.”

There is really only one instance in which Scout uses a simile to describe the housekeeper:

“Calpurnia was something else again. She was all angles and bones; she was nearsighted; she squinted; her hand was wide as a bed slat and twice as hard.”

This physical description of Calpurnia occurs in the novel’s opening chapter. The simile is the description of Calpurnia’s hand as being as “wide as a bed slat and twice as hard.” 

mrwickline eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 1, on page 6, Scout describes Calpurnia’s hand as “wide as a bled slat and twice as hard.” Scout is referring to Calpurnia’s ability to enforce physical punishment whenever the children misbehave. Calpurnia, the Finch’s cook, is a mother-like figure to the Finch children. Scout describes her tyrannical presence and their epic one-sided battles, which Calpurnia would always win. Despite being a strict authority figure, Calpurnia has the best interests of the children in mind and shows sympathy at certain times throughout the novel. Calpurnia provides the children with perspective by showing them the African American side of Maycomb. Aunt Alexandra opposes Calpurnia's attempts to familiarize the Finch children with African American culture (she takes them to a black church), but Atticus supports Calpurnia in all that she does. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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