Calpurnia is the Finch family's African American cook and housekeeper, who acts as one of Jem and Scout 's surrogate mothers. Cal is a memorable character, who is depicted as a strict, no-nonsense woman. Despite her stern personality, Cal is a sincere, compassionate woman and genuinely loves the Finch children....
Calpurnia is the Finch family's African American cook and housekeeper, who acts as one of Jem and Scout's surrogate mothers. Cal is a memorable character, who is depicted as a strict, no-nonsense woman. Despite her stern personality, Cal is a sincere, compassionate woman and genuinely loves the Finch children. In the opening chapter, Scout describes Calpurnia by saying,
She was all angles and bones; she was nearsighted; she squinted; her hand was wide as a bed slat and twice as hard. She was always ordering me out of the kitchen, asking me why I couldn’t behave as well as Jem when she knew he was older, and calling me home when I wasn’t ready to come. Our battles were epic and one-sided. Calpurnia always won, mainly because Atticus always took her side. She had been with us ever since Jem was born, and I had felt her tyrannical presence as long as I could remember.
Scout's description of Cal portrays her as a severe, intolerant woman, who is oppressive and enjoys confrontation. However, Scout's childhood innocence and naive personality make her an unreliable narrator. Cal simply does not put up with children misbehaving and is not afraid of correcting Jem or Scout. By chastising the children, Cal is depicted as a caring mother figure.
Following Scout's rough first day of school, she comes home and is surprised that Cal made her some crackling bread. Cal proceeds to tell Scout that she missed her during the day and gives her some sweet bread. Scout mentions,
It was not often that she made crackling bread, she said she never had time, but with both of us at school today had been an easy one for her. She knew I loved crackling bread.
Cal demonstrates her love for the children by making Scout her favorite treat after a rough day. Cal recognizes that crackling bread will cheer Scout up, which is a motherly gesture and reveals her compassionate nature.
In chapter 14, Aunt Alexandra comes to stay at the Finch residence and demands that Atticus fire Cal. However, Atticus responds by saying,
She’s a faithful member of this family and you’ll simply have to accept things the way they are...Besides, I don’t think the children’ve suffered one bit from her having brought them up. If anything, she’s been harder on them in some ways than a mother would have been… she’s never let them get away with anything, she’s never indulged them the way most colored nurses do. She tried to bring them up according to her lights, and Cal’s lights are pretty good—and another thing, the children love her.
Atticus's comments reveal that Calpurnia is an integral member of their family and a beloved individual. Atticus praises Cal for raising the children the right way and tells his sister that Jem and Scout love Cal. Overall, Calpurnia is depicted as a colorful, well-rounded character, who is an important member of the Finch family and genuinely loves the children.