What type of relationship do Scout and Calpurnia have throughout the novel?

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scout and Calpurnia have a teacher-student relationship:

Like Atticus, Calpurnia is a strict but loving teacher, particularly in regard to Scout, whose enthusiasm sometimes makes her thoughtless.

Calpurnia disciplines Scout, and at times, Scout rebels against that teaching. Scout shares her feeling with Atticus who wisely sides with Calpurnia. During one of the times that Calpurnia disciplined Scout, Scout wanted Atticus to get rid of Calpurnia:

'She likes Jem better'n she likes me anyway,' I concluded, and suggested that Atticus lose no time in packing her off.

Scout reacts as a typical child would when she is scolded. In reality, Scout truly loves Calpurnia. Scout is learning. She has to be disciplined, and discipline is grievous. No one enjoys discipline. Calpurnia balances her discipline with affection which often gratifies Scout:

Calpurnia bent down and kissed me. I ran along, wondering what had come over her. She had wanted to make up with me, that was it. She had always been too hard on me, she had at last seen the error of her fractious ways, she was sorry and too stubborn to say so. (3.75)

Truly, Scout is too young to realize that Calpurnia is doing the right thing in disciplining her. Nonetheless, Calpurnia is fair. She scolds or disciplines Scout. Then she will show her tenderness at the right moment.

After Calpurnia had scolded Scout for making negative remarks about the Cunningham boy, the next day she makes a treat for Scout--crackling bread. In a tender moment, Calpurnia shares how lonely she was while Scout was at school:

'I missed you today,' she said. 'The house got so lonesome, 'long about two o'clock I had to turn on the radio.'

Truly, Scout and Calpurnia have a balanced relationship. Calpurnia is balanced in teaching Scout. She scolds using tough love. Then she showers Scout with tenderness and affection. No doubt, Scout will grow up to appreciate Calpurnia for her firm teaching and tender love.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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