What did Lula do to Calpurnia in Chapter 12 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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While Atticus was out of town one weekend, Cal decided to take Jem and Scout to her own church in the Quarters. The children's white faces were unexpected, but the majority of the congregation greeted them warmly. However, one woman did not appreciate Cal bringing "white chillun to nigger church." Lula was

"... a tall Negro woman... bullet-headed with strange almond-shaped eyes, straight nose, and an Indian-bow mouth. She seemed seven feet tall."  (Chapter 12)

Lula didn't appreciate the mixing of races at her church, and it appeared that she would cause a disturbance. But Cal stood firm, telling her "Stop right there, nigger." Scout wanted to leave, but she soon saw that a "solid mass of colored people" had crowded her out, and suddenly "Lula was gone." It was a terrific learning experience for Jem and Scout, and it helped create a deeper bond between Scout and Cal. Described as "haughty" and a "troublemaker," Lula serves as the prime example in the novel of an African American's prejudice toward the white people of Maycomb.

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Because the children got themselves into trouble at their own church while Atticus was in Montgomery on a previous occasion and the Sunday School teacher was also absent, Calpurnia decides to bring Jem and Scout along with her to the First Purchase Methodist Episcopalian Church in the Quarters south of the town. In this way, she can sit right beside the children and keep an eye on them.

Well aware of the inequity of the white children being allowed in a black church while blacks are forbidden from entering white churches, Lula feels strong resentment that the Finch children are present in her church. She accosts Calpurnia and asks why the two children are there. Calpurnia replies in the vernacular: "They's my comp'ny." Lula's retort is filled with sarcasm:

"Yeah, an' I reckon you's comp'ny at the Finch house durin' the week,"

But while Lula is hostile, the other members of the congregation draw closer to the children, and Lula retreats. Demonstrating true Christian charity, Zeebo, Calpurnia's son, tells Jem that the congregation is glad to have them in their church. He explains that Lula is

"....a troublemaker from way back, got fancy ideas an' haughty ways--we're mighty glad to have you all."

Thus, the congregation at the humble church that has "a paint-peeled frame" and no prayer books makes Jem and Scout feel welcome with their truly charitable gesture as they put aside any hard feelings or resentments, even though these feelings have some justification.

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