What do we learn about life in Maycomb in the 1930s from the presentation of female characters in To Kill a Mockingbird? 

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missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my opinion, chapter 24 helps draw many conclusions about women and their roles in the 1930s.

First, we see that women are expected to dress appropriately. Scout is criticized regularly by Aunt Alexandra for her trousers and the description of Alexandra's physical appearance in chapter 13 demonstrates her pride in Southern women's values for appearances.

Second, we see that women are full of gossip. Almost every situation that Scout notices in a woman besides Maudie includes great gossip. Stephanie Crawford is portrayed as a great exaggerator. The Missionary Circle is more about what is going on with the trial than the poor Mrunas they collect money for.

Last, we see women as hypocrites who use their church as a part of their lifestyle, but don't necessarily offer the grace, forgiveness and kindness likely preached in their pulpits. Look at how some of the ladies discussed the black community the day after a significantly unfair trial went down in Maycomb:

Mrs. Merriweather faced Mrs. Farrow: “Gertrude, I tell you there’s nothing more distracting than a sulky darky. Their mouths go down to here. Just ruins your day to have one of ‘em in the kitchen. You know what I said to my Sophy, Gertrude? I said, ’Sophy,‘ I said, ’you simply are not being a Christian today. Jesus Christ never went around grumbling and complaining,‘ and you know, it did her good. She took her eyes off that floor and said, ’Nome, Miz Merriweather, Jesus never went around grumblin‘.’ I tell you, Gertrude, you never ought to let an opportunity go by to witness for the Lord.”

Isn't that terrible? The women must have had some positive traits, but I believe the reason Lee paints Scout as a tomboy is because she herself is rebelling against the idea of being a Southern Woman.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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