What is the purpose of including reference of the foot washing baptists in "To Kill A Mockingbird"?I need this answer for a school project.

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a few reasons to include this detail, which is mentioned in Chapter 5 in reference to the Radley family.

Miss Maudie settled her bridgework. "You know old Mr. Radley was a foot-washing Baptist-" 
"That's what you are, ain't it?" 
"My shell's not that hard, child. I'm just a Baptist."

The first reason is character development.  Boo is the scary and isolated neighbor that the children of the town have painted as a monster.  However, their "fear" of him comes from not really knowing him.  Maudie's conversation with Scout here lets us know something about both Boo and his family.  We understand that Boo's father was religiously devout in such a way to make him a hard and controlling parent.  This helps to explain Boo and makes him seem more human, less monster.

The second reason to include this detail is to give more information about the region.  This book is an example of regional fiction - not only does it tell a story about people, but it tells a story about a particular culture.  In this case, it is the culture of the south during the Depression.  Lee makes Maycomb a character, and allows to the town to serve as a microcosm - a small example that serves as a comparison of a larger region.  As readers, we see what the school was like, what the "rich" and "poor" communities were like, what the justice system was like, what the different races were like - and what religions influenced it all.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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