When Miss Maudie shows her disgust for foot-washing Baptists, is she actually putting down all Baptists, or just a particular group in To Kill a Mockingbird? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Maudie directs her disgust at the select group of "foot-washing" Baptists, or those that are extremely restrictive, and does not group all Baptists together.

By "foot-washing Baptists," Miss Maudie intends to address the Baptists who interpret the Bible very narrowly. She tells the children, "Foot-washers believe anything that's pleasure is a sin," and she adds that they think that women are sinful by definition. As an example of a foot-washing Baptist, Miss Maudie points to Mr. Radley, who so strictly punished Arthur that he has not emerged from his house since being returned to it from the basement of the jail. Further, she tells Scout and Jem that the foot-washers came from the woods one Saturday, and as they passed by her place, they told her that she and her flowers are going to hell. Apparently, they find Miss Maudie very vain because she devotes too much time outdoors and not enough time inside the house, reading the Bible.

When the trial of Tom Robinson begins and people parade into Maycomb to attend it, the foot-washing Baptists ride through in a wagon and pass by Miss Maudie's yard. As the driver slows down, a woman calls out in a shrill voice: "He that cometh in vanity departeth in darkness!" Again, there are implications of vanity and selfishness. Miss Maudie fires back, quoting from the Bible, too: "A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance." To the children's delight, the driver hurries his mules onward away from Miss Maudie.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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