What is ironic about Mrs. Merriweather's statement about the Mrunas' sense of family in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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

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The uncivilized Mruna tribe in Africa are truly heathens, greatly in need of Christian enlightenment, according to Mrs. Merriweather. Mrs. Merriweather is sympathetic with their plight, and she hopes the missionary, J. Grimes Everett, will be able to provide them with the guidance to lead them out of their "sin and squalor." The Mrunas

... put the women out in huts when their time came... they had no sense of family--... they subjected their children to terrible ordeals when they were thirteen; they were crawling with yaws and earworms, they chewed up and spat out the bark of a tree into a communal pot and then got drunk on it.

What Mrs. Merriweather doesn't seem to realize is that these are longtime traditions of the tribe, and though the Christian women at the Missionary Circle meeting seem horrified at their description, they are but tribal customs that are practiced in a caring manner. Ironically, Mrs. Merriweather shows no concern for the Negroes in her own town, criticizing her maid, Sophy, for "grumbling and complaining," demeaning her and accusing her of being un-Christian-like. She believes that white people who defend and befriend Negroes are hypocrites, and she believes Atticus is "misguided" for agreeing to defend Tom Robinson. Mrs. Merriweather understands neither the Mrunas nor the Negroes, and her "sense of family" only extends to her white church-going friends in Maycomb. 

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