What do you learn about the different attitudes toward Maycomb's black population from the converation at Aunt Alexandria's ladies' tea?  

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 13 of "To Kill a Mockingbird" Aunt Alexandra arrives in Maycomb and is welcomed.  After a while she has a meeting with her Missionary Society, but she does not allow Calpurnia to make the refreshments, for Aunt Alendra "would arrange, advise, caution, and warn."  Later, she forbids the children to attend church with Calpurnia, and when Alexandra and Atticus argue about Calpurnia's influence upon the children, Scout hears them.  Woried that she is in trouble, Scout is relieved when she realizes that they "are only talking about Calpurnia." 

Here are some of the incongruous attitudes of the Old South.  It is fine for the children to feel affection for their housekeeper, but they must not be seen with her in her social settings.  At the tea, Mrs. Merriweather expresses another old attitude prevalent after Reconstruction: 

'...we can try till we drop to make Christians out of 'em, but there's no lady safe in her bed these nights.' 

She then criticizes Atticus indirectly by saying that there are some misguided people in town who

"think they are doing right, but all they did was stir 'em up....I tell you if my Sophy'd kept it up another day I'd have let her go.  It's never entered that wool of hers that the only reason I deep her is because this depression's on...'

According to Mrs. Merriweather, the black community is stepping out of their place.  But, perhaps the most insensitive remark is made that if Tom Robinson's wife would just stop complaining, the matter would "blow over."  Mrs. Merriweather thinks that the ladies should let Mrs. Robinson know that they "forgive her."  She equates the Robinsons with the natives that the church missionary works in Africa. 

The hypocrisy of the ladies at the tea is apparent.  While they pretend to be so interested in some of the African tribes, they criticize their own cooks and servants.  Such are the "secret courts" of people's hearts, courts that have already tried Tom Robinson.

 

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