In To Kill A Mockingbird, what does Scout mean when she says that Miss Maudie is a "chameleon lady?"
A chameleon is a distinctive lizard, very unique and therefore different from everything around it. However, it has the ability to blend into its surroundings, going unnoticed. To Kill A Mockingbird exposes racial prejudice in Maycomb County and the tragic consequences of using race to define a person according to a stereotype. The "folks" prejudge Tom Robinson and their hypocrisy is blatant and cruel.
Miss Maudie is kind to the children, allowing them to play in her yard as long as they are careful not to disturb her precious azaleas. She is most comfortable in her garden and considers time indoors as "wasted." Scout describes her as "a widow, a chameleon lady," in chapter 5, with a "benign presence," because she knows that Miss Maudie is not like the others in the town, and Scout recognizes her as an individual with a quiet determination - apparent in her assault on the "nut grass" which is treated as if it is almost like an "Old Testament pestilence." Scout also appreciates her kind attention towards the children who learn that she can also bake cakes, "a talent ... hitherto kept hidden;" again revealing her chameleon-like characteristics. Miss Maudie wishes no ill-will against anyone and this contrasts sharply with most of the reproachful and discriminatory residents of the town.
Scout recognizes how different Miss Maudie is from, for example, Miss Crawford. Although they are both Baptists, Miss Crawford is what Miss Maudie describes as a "foot-washing" Baptist and she even criticizes Miss Maudie because she spends more time in her garden when apparently she should be indoors reading her Bible. Scout considers Miss Maudie her "friend," not interested in the children's "private lives," revealing more of her unassuming, chameleon-like charactersistics, whereas Miss Crawford cannot be trusted.
Scout specifically describes Ms. Maudie as
"a chameleon lady who worked in . . . an old straw hat and men's coveralls, but after her five o'clock bath she would appear on the porch . . . in magisterial beauty."
Ms. Maudie in Scout's view is always changing. She can be working and look dirty and sweaty at one moment, but the next appear as beautiful as she can ever be. Scout thinks such inconsistency is just like that of a chameleon that constantly changes colors to blend into its surroundings.