What's the attitude and mood of Aunt Alexandra and the women when she invited them over to discuss charity work in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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What begins as an innocent enough meeting of the local Methodist Missionary Circle groups turns a bit ugly midway through the social. Serving as hostess in Atticus' home, Aunt Alexandra's friends include Miss Maudie, Miss Stephanie, Miss Rachel, and the main speaker, Mrs. Grace Merriweather. The group hears Mrs. Merriweather's description of the Mruna tribe in Africa, who are being civilized under the eye of missionary J. Grimes Everett. She hopes to receive the support of her group for Everett's work with the uncivilized, heathen tribe, but during a break for refreshments, talk turns to the African-Americans in Maycomb. Despite the women's apparent support of the Mrunas, the talk turns nasty when discussing the black people in their home town. Mrs. Merriweather denounces Helen Robinson, Tom's wife; and her maid, Sophie. She then moves on to blasting certain people

"... in this town who think they're doing right... far be it from me to say who, but some of 'em... all they did was stir 'em up."

She is talking about Atticus, of course, and Miss Maudie takes offense, questioning Mrs. Merriweather's nerve to be eating the refreshments (paid for by Atticus) in his own house. Miss Maudie retorts,

"His food doesn't stick going down, does it?"

It is obvious that, in Mrs. Merriweather's case, charity does not begin at home. Most of the discussion is over Scout's head, but she recognizes when Miss Maudie becomes angry, since

... her brevity was icy. Something had made her deeply angry, and her gray eyes were as cold as her voice.

Mrs. Merriweather was embarrassed, but she denied knowing of what Miss Maudie spoke, and soon she was speaking about the hypocrisy of others.

ThingsĀ became even worse when Atticus brought the news that Tom had been killed.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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