In chapter 24 , Aunt Alexandra is holding a meeting of her missionary circle. Although the assembled ladies discuss the church's missionary work in Africa, they still voice prejudiced remarks about African Americans. Grace Merriweather, for example, implies that white missionaries are somehow doing those poor benighted savages out in...
In chapter 24, Aunt Alexandra is holding a meeting of her missionary circle. Although the assembled ladies discuss the church's missionary work in Africa, they still voice prejudiced remarks about African Americans. Grace Merriweather, for example, implies that white missionaries are somehow doing those poor benighted savages out in Africa a favor:
"Oh child, those poor Mrunas," she said, and was off. Few other questions would be necessary.
Mrs. Merriweather's large brown eyes always filled with tears when she considered the oppressed. "Living in that jungle with nobody but J. Grimes Everett," she said. "Not a white person'll go near 'em but that saintly J. Grimes Everett." (Chapter 24. pp.26-28)
It's ok to help people out in Africa (something for which they should be eternally grateful to the saintly J. Grimes Everett), but their ancestors in Maycomb are just "darkies" who can never be on equal terms with white folk.
Prejudice in To Kill A Mockingbird isn't simply racial; it's also based on class. Aunt Alexandra has a particular bee in her bonnet about "good breeding." She's of the firm opinion that negative character traits are passed down through families over generations. But Scout isn't too impressed:
Somewhere, I had received the impression that Fine Folks were people who did the best they could with the sense they had, but Aunt Alexandra was of the opinion, obliquely expressed, that the longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was. (Chapter 13. p.28)
But, it's racial prejudice that is the main theme of the story. This affects people in different ways:
Lula stopped, but she said, "You ain't got no business bringin' white chillun here—they got their church, we got our'n. It is our church, ain't it, Miss Cal?"
. . . When I looked down the pathway again, Lula was gone. In her place was a solid mass of colored people.
One of them stepped from the crowd. It was Zeebo, the garbage collector. "Mister Jem," he said, "we're mighty glad to have you all here. Don't pay no 'tention to Lula, she's contentious because Reverend Sykes threatened to church her. She's a troublemaker from way back, got fancy ideas an' haughty ways—we're mighty glad to have you all." (Chapter 12. pp.48-52)
Segregation is so deeply entrenched in the Old South that different races even worship at different churches. What's also being hinted at here is that the Christian message, which is universal, is being repressed by prevailing the racial prejudices that reinforce separation and particularity.