What does the "business" part of the missionary circle consist of in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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The greatest insight given into Aunt Alexandra's missionary circles is found in chapter 24. Scout helps Calpurnia in the kitchen while the "business" part takes place. Aunt Alexandra told her that it would bore her, but that she could join them for refreshments afterwards. The Methodist women invited to the business part consist of Mrs. Merriweather, Mill Gates, and Miss Farrow; but when it is time for refreshments, the neighborhood ladies are invited. That means that Miss Rachel, Miss Maudie, and Miss Stephanie Crawford are invited in at that time as well. Just as the refreshments are being passed around, talk seems to turn back to what the first group of women had discussed during the missionary segment. For example, Mrs. Merriweather discusses her missionary work with J. Grimes Everett and helping the Mrunas become better Christians. Then they start to discuss Helen Robinson, as follows:

"Well, I always say forgive and forget, forgive and forget. Thing that church ought to do is help her lead a Christian life for those children from here on out. Some of the men ought to go out there and tell that preacher to encourage her" (231).

It would seem that the "business" part of the circle is about making other people more Christian--or more like what they feel is Christian. Not only that, but the missionary circle discusses the black community who work for whites as maids and field hands. Mrs. Merriweather tells everyone how she told her maid, Sophie, to stop acting depressed because of the Tom Robinson case. She told her that Jesus never complained, so she shouldn't either. In order to keep her job, Sophie agreed and put on a happy face for her employer.

Mrs. Merriweather probably should not have let her opinions and activities with her missionary efforts spill over into the refreshment part of the tea party. Nevertheless, she divulges that the women from the Methodist church, which includes Aun Alexandra, must discuss making the black community more subservient by telling them to be better Christians. They must think that they are actually "saving" them, but in reality, they discuss how to keep the blacks as submissive workers while they maintain their self-righteous attitudes and "higher class" status. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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