What does "out to the Quarters" mean in chapter 16 of To Kill a Mockingbird?In chapter 16, it says "I don't think it's a good habit, Atticus. It encourages them. You know how they talk among...

What does "out to the Quarters" mean in chapter 16 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

In chapter 16, it says

"I don't think it's a good habit, Atticus. It encourages them. You know how they talk among themselves. Everything that happens in this town's out to the Quarters before sundown."


What does it mean?

Asked on by kykyky07

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tmcquade's profile pic

tmcquade | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

When Alexandra says this, she is talking to Atticus in reference to the fact that Atticus just said, in front of Calpurnia, that "(Braxton Underwood) despises Negroes, won't have one near him."  They had been talking about the scene at the jail house the night before and the fact that Mr. Underwood saw the whole thing and was standing there with a shotgun, ready to act if needed.

Aunt Alexandra does not think Atticus should say such things in front of Calpurnia because this kind of remark "encourages (the Negroes). You know how they talk among themselves. Everything that happens in this town's out to the Quarters before sundown."  Here, "the Quarters" refers to the area outside of town where the Blacks live - perhaps an area that was formerly used as Slave Quarters. 

Alexandra does not think Calpurnia is to be trusted with such honest, straightforward remarks - she thinks Calpurnia will go right out and gossip, telling everyone what was said.  Alexandra believes in the typical, hypocritical Maycomb practice of pretending not to be racist - of putting on a good show.  Atticus points out that he's sure Calpurnia, as well as the rest of the Black community, already knows this about Mr. Underwood.  His racist feelings are no secret.

Scout notices, in this conversation, that Atticus seems to be showing his "irritation" a bit more with Aunt Alexandra.  He doesn't bow to her every desire.  He doesn't agree when she says Calpurnia is no longer needed, and he doesn't agree here with the need to censor his words in front of her.  He trusts Calpurnia completely, appreciates her fully, and says she "knows what she means to this family."

Sources:

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