What irony is there in Mrs. Merriweather's insistence that Helen Robinson be forgiven in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As she alludes to Helen Robinson's need to lead a Christian life for her children from now on, the dramatic irony in these words of the judgmental, hypocritical Mrs. Grace Merriweather are that Tom and Helen both have probably been far more Christian in their actions than Mrs. Merriweather has ever been. Mrs. Merriweather is the one who should seek forgiveness, as she makes many uncharitable remarks about her maid and other blacks in the community.

Mrs. Merriweather considers herself an upright Christian, but the irony is that she is anything but Christian in her uncharitable and derogatory remarks, including,

"If we just let them know we forgive 'em, that we've forgotten it, then this whole thing'll blow over."

As stated by Mr. Link Deas, Tom Robinson was a good person. When she listens to Mayella's testimony, Scout realizes Tom was probably the only person who was ever decent to Mayella Ewell. In addition, Tom's wife Helen has not caused any problems and just tries to raise her family.

What is also ridiculous about Mrs. Merriweather's words is her assumption that Helen Robinson is unchristian in her behavior may be based upon the disgruntled black community's reaction after the trial; she tells Scout that the field hands and the cooks are dissatisfied, having grumbled all the next day. Of course, the bigoted Mrs. Merriweather does not believe they have anything about which to grumble.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mrs. Merriweather's remark that Helen Robinson should ask to be forgiven is ironic because Mrs. Merriweather is actually the person that needs to ask for forgiveness. As was mentioned in the previous post, Mrs. Merriweather considers herself to be a morally upright Christan woman. However, she is extremely prejudiced towards African Americans, continually uses racial slurs, indirectly criticizes Atticus for defending Tom, and is unsympathetic towards her maids' difficult situation. Mrs. Merriweather believes that she is acting like a Christian, but her actions and comments portray the opposite of Christian values. Lee utilizes dramatic irony to illustrate Mrs. Merriweather's hypocrisy. Mrs. Merriweather is unaware of her hypocritical nature, while the audience easily recognizes her true character. Mrs. Merriweather is more of a callous racist than she is a Christian woman. If anybody needs to ask for forgiveness, it is Mrs. Merriweather, not Helen Robinson. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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