What makes Mrs. Merriweather a hypocrite in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mrs. Merriweather is a part of the Methodist church in Maycomb, and one of Aunt Alexandra's guests during missionary tea parties. Aunt Alexandra usually conducts business with Mrs. Merriweather, Miss. Gates, and others before inviting neighbors over for refreshments. Scout comes dressed in a nice dress for the refreshments and asks what they all discussed during the business part of the party. Mrs. Merriweather is all too comfortable to reveal what the ladies discussed because she tells Scout who they are focusing on: a tribe of Mrunas who J. Grimes Everett is working with and Helen Robinson.

Mrs. Merriweather is a hypocrite because she can sit and talk a good judgmental game, but she will never actually get out among those she claims to help and actually help them. For example, she wants Mr. Everett to tell Reverend Sykes to encourage Helen to lead a Christian life. If it is such a big deal to her, she should go see Helen herself and have a talk about her life. Mrs. Merriweather is content, though, to sit and voice her cruel and judgmental criticisms at a party rather than actually do something about whatever or whomever is worrying her. 

Mrs. Merriweather even criticizes Atticus indirectly by saying the following:

"Folks in this town who think they're doing right, I mean. Now far be it from me to say who, but some of 'em in this town thought they were doing the right thing a while back, but all they did was stir 'em up. That all they did. Might've looked like the right thing to do at the time, I'm sure I don't know. . ." (233).

Here Mrs. Merriweather says that Atticus must have thought he was doing the right thing, but he made things worse. Mrs. Merriweather is a hypocrite because she doesn't do anything to help things for anyone but herself, but she feels just fine criticizing those who are doing good things in the community. She just didn't like that he helped out a black man rather than disregard him as a nothing, like she would have done. 

mlsldy3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout is spending the afternoon with Aunt Alexandra while Jem is teaching Dill how to swim. Scout considers being with Aunt Alexandra being a lady, so she spends the afternoon with the church ladies that have come over. Scout helps Cal bring the dishes out, but Aunt Alexandra asks Scout to stay with them. Scout listens as the ladies talk and gossip about the town. When Mrs. Merriweather starts talking about how one must forgive and forget, Scout thinks at first she is talking Mayella Ewell, but she soon finds out she is talking about Helen Robinson.

Mrs. Merriweather turned back to her neighbor. "There's one thing I truly believe, Gertrude," she continued, "but some people just don't see it my way. If we just let them know we forgive 'em, that we've forgotten it, then this whole thing'll blow over."

Everyone thinks that Mrs. Merriweather is a wonderful Christian woman, but in all reality she is a nasty judgmental woman. What Mrs. Merriweather is saying is that the women should tell Helen Robinson that the town forgives and forgets what Tom supposedly did. She is a narrow-minded woman and someone needs to put her in her place, and Scout is just the person to do it.

lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You can read about Mrs. Grace Merriweather in chapter 24 when Aunt Alexandra has her missionary women for tea. Mrs. Merriweather is a hypocrite because she is going on and on about being a good Christian and practicing good Christian values when she herself is a stereotypical bigot. She tells Scout all about the missionary work of J. Grimes Everett among the Africans, and yet when it comes to the Blacks in their own community of Maycomb, she complains that the "Darkies" are grumbling over what happened at Tom Robinson's trial. She says that there is nothing worse than a grumbling "Darkie". Her attitude, even towards the Africans, is a patronizing one. She tells the women that if the Blacks in Maycomb just will realize that "we forgive them" then the whole thing will blow over. She treats the Blacks in Maycomb as if they were still slaves.

It is ironic that her first name is "Grace" because she does not understand the concept of grace according to the Bible.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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