Calpurnia Quotes

What are three quotes from the book To Kill a Mockingbird that prove that Calpurnia loves Scout or Jem in a motherly way?

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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....

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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.

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"It's right hard to say," she said. "Suppose you and Scout talked colored-folks' talk at home it'd be out of place, wouldn't it? Now what if I talked white-folks' talk at church, and with my neighbors? They'd think I was puttin' on airs to beat Moses."

This is Calpurnia explaining to Scout why she talks differently at church from how she talks at home. Calpurnia effectively has a double identity, as a black housekeeper serving a white family and as a member of Maycomb's African-American community. She finds it necessary, then, to switch between different speech registers depending on whom she's talking to. That explains why she doesn't talk the same way to Scout as she does to her fellow worshippers at the black church she attends.

Unlike Atticus, Calpurnia doesn't have the luxury of being herself. As an African American woman living in the Deep South, she's acutely aware of her lowly place in society. That being the case, she has to be extra careful about what she says and to whom she says it. Among other things, this means not putting on airs and graces, which is what she feels she would be doing were she to talk at church the way she does at home.

What's motherly about this quotation is that it shows Calpurnia's anxiety to ensure that Scout grows up to be a fine, upstanding lady. Part of being a lady, in Calpurnia's eyes, is to act and talk appropriately at all times. Were she to act and talk at church the way she does at home, that is to say showing that she knows better than everyone else, Calpurnia would not, according to her values, be acting in a ladylike manner. This has especial relevance for Scout, who, as well as being a bit of a tomboy, is very intelligent for her age. There's nothing wrong with intelligence, thinks Calpurnia, but it's not necessary to show it off at every opportunity.

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Calpurnia corrects Scout when she offends the Cunningham boy. Calpurnia acts as a mother figure in her correction:

Don't matter who they are, anybody sets foot in this house, they are company and don't let me catch you remarking on their ways like you were so high and mighty. (3.26-29)

Calpurnia teaches Scout that she is no better than others, a lesson she will forever hold on to:

“Yo’ folks might be better’n the Cunninghams but it don’t count for nothin’ the way you’re disgracin’ ‘em if you can't act fit to eat at the table you can just sit here and eat in the kitchen!” (3.26-29)

Calpurnia acts as a loving mother and teaches Jem and Scout about life. She does act as a parent and she gets total support from Atticus, and the children know this. 

Truly, Calpurnia is more than a cook. She takes her role as a mother quite seriously. Calpurnia could be the mother Jem and Scout never had because she is wise, caring, and patient with the kids. 

Calpurnia does love Jem and Scout in a motherly way. She corrects them with what she calls tough love and tender love. According to Scout, Calpurnia acts as a mother:

"Calpurnia bent down and kissed me. I ran along, wondering what had come over her. She had wanted to make up with me, that was it. She had always been too hard on me, she had at last seen the error of her fractious ways, she was sorry and too stubborn to say so."(3.75)

No doubt, Calpurnia cares deeply about the children. Atticus has the utmost respect for her and he encourages the children to listen to her with respect. He shares that Calpurnia is part of the family. He is speaking to his sister Alexandra:

 "Alexandra, Calpurnia's not leaving this house ... until she wants to. You may think otherwise, but I couldn't have got along without her all these years. She's a faithful member of this family and you'll simply have to accept things the way they are." (14.28)

Atticus is clear on the topic. Calpurnia is part of the family. He admits that he couldn't have done without her through the years. 

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