What values does Calpurnia seem to represent in To Kill a Mockingbird? What quotes from the book support those values?

Expert Answers
tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Calpurnia is African American and works for Atticus Finch by cooking, cleaning, and watching out for Jem and Scout. Atticus tells his sister Alexandra that Calpurnia is the only mother that the kids have known; and as such, she has taught them good manners, strength of character, and has been faithful by respecting others above herself. Calpurnia represents all of these good traits and values.

One of the first things Cal teaches Scout is good manners. When Walter Cunningham is invited over for lunch on the first day of school, Scout vocally condemns his use of syrup on his non-breakfast food items. Calpurnia immediately takes Scout into the kitchens as says the following:

"Hush your mouth! Don't matter who they are, anybody sets foot in this house's yo' comp'ny, and don't you let me catch you remarkin' on their ways like you was so high and mighty!" (24).

Not only is it bad manners to vocalize one's thoughts about company, but acting "high and mighty" isn't good either. That's one lesson Scout doesn't forget. In this scenario, Calpurnia represents having good manners and being a good hostess.

The next value Calpurnia expresses is strength of character when she takes the children to her church. They are confronted with Lula who seems racist against whites coming to their church. But Calpurnia stands strong because the kids are her guests for the day.

"Lula stopped, but she said, 'You ain't got no business bringin' white chillun here--they got their church, we got our'n. It is our church, ain't it, Miss Cal?'

Calpurnia said, 'It's the same God, ain't it?'"(119).

Calpurnia faces her own kind in defense of what is right, just like Atticus faces his to defend Tom Robinson. Here, she represents a good strong character standing up for what's right.

Finally, Calpurnia represents being faithful and loyal to one's employer. For example, Calpurnia never gossips, back-talks, or complains about the Finches to anyone. Atticus vouches for Calpurnia's worth and values as follows:

"Calpurnia's not leaving this house until she wants to. You may think otherwise, but I couldn't have got along without her all these years. She's a faithful member of this family and you'll simply have to accept things the way they are" (137).

Calpurnia is faithful and loyal to the Finch family, which seems hard to come by when racial tension is so high at that time; but she's faithful nonetheless.  

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question