What caused Scout to change her mind about being a lady in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Scout changes her mind about being a lady in To Kill a Mockingbird by admiring the subtle way Aunt Alexandra communicates with Miss Maudie during the missionary circle. She is in awe of the gestures and indirect communication between Alexandra and Miss Maudie. Scout also respects her aunt's courage and ability to maintain her composure after receiving the difficult news of Tom's death. She values Alexandra's confidence and ability to conceal her emotions in front of the other ladies.

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Growing up without a mother, Scout is used to spending the majority of her time around males, like Atticus, Jem, and Dill. She is a notorious tomboy, who would rather play outside in overalls than socialize at a tea party in a dress. Scout's disposition and affinity for outdoor activities rub Aunt Alexandra the wrong way, and she makes her attend a missionary circle with the local ladies. Alexandra's attempt to expose Scout to feminine activities enlightens her to the hypocritical nature of Maycomb's presumably Christian society. She is appalled by Mrs. Merriweather's hypocrisy and feels uncomfortable among the women. Despite Scout's negative view of the feminine world, she is impressed by the subtleness of Miss Maudie's interaction with Aunt Alexandra.

Miss Maudie comes to Atticus's defense by confronting Mrs. Merriweather about her critical, unflattering comments. Following the tense interaction, Scout notices the subtle look of appreciation Alexandra gives Maudie and wonders "at the world of women." There is something about the way women communicate that Scout finds fascinating, which she looks forward to learning as she matures.

Later on, Atticus interrupts the missionary circle to inform Calpurnia, Alexandria, and Miss Maudie that Tom Robinson was shot dead attempting to escape from the Enfield Prison Farm. Shortly after Atticus leaves, Scout witnesses Alexandra break down and express her concern for Atticus. Fortunately, Miss Maudie is able to calm her nerves, and Alexandra collects herself. Once Alexandra enters the living room, Scout admires the way she carries herself in a composed manner. As an intuitive, perceptive young girl, Scout recognizes the courage and composure that her aunt displays and mentions,

I carefully picked up the tray and watched myself walk to Mrs. Merriweather. With my best company manners, I asked her if she would have some. After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I (217).

Overall, Scout changes her mind about becoming a lady by noticing the subtle way in which women communicate and by admiring Aunt Alexandra's courage to maintain her composure after receiving difficult news.

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Scout is a tomboy for most of the book. She prefers the company of boys and men and doesn't see the value of being a lady, despite Aunt Alexandra's admonitions. Chapter 24 marks a turning point in Scout's opinion of being a lady, however. In this scene, Scout finds herself wearing her "pink Sunday dress, shoes, and a petticoat" at Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle tea party. Although she would have rather been swimming with Jem and Dill, since they were skinny-dipping, she wasn't allowed to join them. At the beginning of the chapter, Scout "admired the ease and grace with which [Clapurnia] handled heavy loads of dainty things." She tries to mimic Calpurnia's backing out of the swinging door of the kitchen, but she isn't strong enough.

During the tea party, Aunt Alexandra is pleased with Scout's efforts to act like a lady. She gently guides her to avoid responding inappropriately to some of the women's comments. She is able to read the tension Aunt Alexandra feels when Mrs. Merriweather tosses a veiled criticism of Atticus into the room. She notes the look of gratitude her aunt gives Miss Maudie, and "wondered at the world of women." She recognizes the bond of mutual support that Alexandra and Maudie share and seems intrigued, although she finds the world of men more straightforward and less hypocritical.

When Scout learns of Tom Robinson's death and realizes that Aunt Alexandra and Miss Maudie both side with Atticus's views on the rights of blacks rather than with the townpeople's racism, she seems to recognize that both women show the same strength and integrity that she admires in her father. At first she believes Aunt Alexandra is crying behind her hands, but when she sees her aunt pull herself together and face the women who have just said unkind and stupid things, she can't help but respect her resilience. Aunt Alexandra shows bravery, integrity, and strength--all characteristics that until that point, Scout had associated more with men and boys than with ladies. She follows Aunt Alexandra's example, accepting her as a role model:

I carefully picked up the tray and watched myself walk to Mrs. Merriweather. With my very best company manners, I asked her if she would have some. After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I.

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Scout has fought for so long to avoid adopting any of the ladylike ways that Calpurnia and, especially, Aunt Alexandra have tried to force upon her. It is in part because she is getting older, and it is partially because she has realized that all girls must eventually become ladies. Aunt Alexandra's intent for Scout attending the Missionary Circle tea is for her to see some of the finer Maycomb ladies in action. But Scout is not really impressed with most of the women: Instead of acting in a proper manner, they make jokes at Scout's expense and make racist remarks about the town's Negro population. Scout seems to realize that when she becomes older, she can improve upon the "most devout" ladies in town--Mrs. Merriweather and Mrs. Farrow--and their "hypocritical" ways. She knows her transition from tomboy to lady is inevitable:

There was no doubt about it, I must soon enter this world, where on its surface fragrant ladies rocked slowly, fanned gently, and drank cool water.  (Chapter 24)

Scout still prefers being around boys and men and, after all, she has a "permanent fiance" in Dill, but

... I was more at home in my father's world... there was something about them that I instinctively liked...  (Chapter 24)

But after seeing the way Maudie and Alexandra react to Atticus's news about Tom's death and the way they bounce back and return to serving their guests as if nothing had happened, Scout recognizes that they are the true ladies in the room, and

... if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I.  (Chapter24)

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