What is ironic about the missionary circle's conversation, in Chapter 24?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle, the Christian ladies of Maycomb reveal their hypocrisy, prejudice, and ignorance throughout their conversations. Though the purpose of the missionary circle is to fellowship with other Christian neighbors and discuss J. Grimes Everett's missionary work in Africa, the ladies gossip and ridicule citizens who support the equality of black people.

Mrs. Merriweather is portrayed as an ignorant, prejudiced individual, who lacks insight, sympathy, and discretion. Her negative qualities are ironic, considering that she is described as a "faithful Methodist" and one of the most devout ladies in Maycomb. She criticizes the attitude of her black servants while simultaneously supporting the Jim Crow laws. She also indirectly ridicules Atticus for defending Tom and reveals her cultural prejudice by mentioning that there is nothing but "sin and squalor" in Africa. Mrs. Farrow is also a member of the missionary circle, who believes in the racist idea that no white woman is safe in her bed. Ironically, the supposedly Christian meeting is nothing short of a gossip session, where racist women reveal their hypocrisy and ignorance. 

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The ladies are condescending and judgmental, pious and gossipy, hardly the appellations one would attribute to true Christian behavior.  But above all, they are prejudiced.  Ms. Merriweather who Scout says was known as "the most devout lady in Maycomb," has this very unlady-like and un-Chrisitian assessement to offer:

"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 your kitchen.  You know what I said to my Sophy, Gertrude?  I said, 'Sophy,' I said, 'you were simply 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."


luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The irony here is that the women are bemoaning the situation regarding the "poor" Mruna tribe of Africans while they treat the blacks with disdain.  They want to help the missionary, J. Everett Grimes, who is in Africa working with this tribe. The blacks are a poor people in need of help as long as they are in Africa and not next door.  Harper Lee puts this scene in the story to show the hypocrisy of these women. 

answerskid | Student


salmank96 | Student

Wrong asnwers people

mjaaaz | Student

Also, another factor is that Miss Merriweather (I think) says that they have no sense of family pride: that all the children are together, like one big family....... but surely this is a good thing? They all love one another and care for each other like a big family.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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