To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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What is Scout's relationship with Calpurnia like in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Calpurnia is Scout’s surrogate mother, as Scout’s own mother died years before, when Scout was two. Referring to her mother, Scout writes that she “never felt her absence.” This means that Calpurnia is the only mother figure that Scout has ever known. Calpurnia raises Scout and her brother, Jem, and takes tremendous responsibility and pride in raising them. For example, Scout learns to read and write well before the other children in her grade because Calpurnia has taught her.

Calpurnia is a strict supervisor. Scout says,

In Calpurnia’s teaching, there was no sentimentality: I seldom pleased her and she seldom rewarded me.

Cal is also strict in the rules that Scout and Jem must heed, and Scout frequently thinks that Calpurnia will admonish her for something she contemplates doing (but she usually does it anyway).

Scout loves Calpurnia, although she sometimes wonders if Cal likes Jem better than she likes Scout. Moreover, it would seem that Scout and Calpurnia battle more than...

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ringo57 | Student

In the beginning of To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout's relationship with Calpurnia is fairly straightforward. Cal acts a surrogate mother and caregiver for Scout and Jem, taking care of their daily needs, feeding them, making sure they are dressed and ready for school, and providing advice and emotional support. Scout loves her, though she sometimes chafes at Cal's discipline and criticism when she misbehaves.

However, as the novel progresses, and Scout matures and learns more about the nature of the case that Atticus is working on, her relationship with Calpurnia changes; it deepens and grows stronger. She starts to realize the nature of racial dynamics in her town, and begins to understand although she loves Calpurnia and regards her as family, to most of the white people in town, Cal is simply another "darkie", inferior to white people, no matter how good her character is, or how beloved she is in the Finch household.

By the end of the book, Scout's relationship with Calpurnia has changed. Her affection for her caregiver has only increased, but now she has a better understanding of a black woman's place in society and realizes that her father's egalitarian views towards negroes are unusual, and even radical in that time and place. She also begins to apprehend just how special her bond with Calpurnia is, which will undoubtedly spur her on to treating Cal and all the other black people she encounters with greater respect of their innate humanity.

gmuss25 | Student

Calpurnia is the Finch's African-American cook and housekeeper who plays the role of mother to Scout and Jem. Scout views Calpurnia as strict, yet understanding throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout mentions their "epic one-sided battles," and says she has "felt her tyrannical presence as long as she could remember." (Lee 7) Calpurnia is always quick to discipline Scout for her misbehavior. For instance, when Scout questions Walter Cunningham's eating habits during a meal at the Finch residence, Calpurnia takes Scout into the kitchen to give her a lesson in manners. Cal says,

"Yo' folks might be better'n the Cunninghams but it don't count for nothin' the way you're disgracin' 'em---if you can't act fit to eat at the table you can just set here and eat in the ketchen!" (Lee 33)

Despite Calpurnia's authoritarian characteristics, she is also portrayed as a caring individual. When Scout comes home from a rough first day at school, Calpurnia makes Scout her favorite meal "crackling bread," and greets her with a kiss. Later on, when Jem begins excluding Scout from activities and growing distant, Calpurnia comforts Scout by saying,

"He's gonna want to be off to himself a lot now, doin' whatever boys do, so you just come right on in the kitchen when you feel lonesome. We'll find lots of things to do in here." (Lee 154)

In addition to being a caregiver, Scout views Calpurnia as a source of knowledge throughout the novel. Scout perfects her writing under Calpurnia's tutelage and experiences African-American culture firsthand after Calpurnia takes her to First Purchase African M. E. Church. Scout looks up to Calpurnia as a role model and their friendship manifests throughout the novel.