In which ways do Calpurnia, Miss Maudie, and Aunt Alexandria influence Scout's growing understanding of what it means to be a southern lady in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Expert Answers
bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Maudie primarily leads by example, demonstrating how she can be an independent woman in a man's world and still maintain her feminine charms.

She was... a chameleon lady who worked in her flower beds in an old straw hat and men's coveralls, but after her five o'clock bath she would appear on the porch and reign over the street in magisterial beauty.  (Chapter 5)

She always calls Scout "Jean Louise" and refuses to lower herself to the gossip and racial hatred exhibited by Miss Stephanie and the women of the Missionary Circle. Calpurnia, meanwhile, is quick to point out Scout's transgressions, and it takes Scout a while to understand that Cal does this out of love and a desire to make her a better person. Cal scolds Scout when she embarrasses Walter for having "drowned his dinner in syrup," pointing out that he is her guest and how

"... anybody sets foot in this house's yo comp'ny, and don't let me catch you remarkin' on their ways like you was so high and mighty!"  (Chapter 3)

Cal makes sure that Scout is dressed in her Sunday best when she takes the children to her church because "I don't want anybody sayin' I don't look after my children." Aunt Alexandra, meanwhile, is fantatical about turning Scout into a little lady (she has nearly accomplished this with her grandson, Francis), and she fights with Atticus about her right to exert a "feminine influence." Like Miss Maudie, Alexandra also tries to lead by example, and she becomes active in many social organizations. But Scout can see through Alexandra's beliefs in Fine Folks and gentle breeding, and Scout quickly sees that the "ladies" of the Missionary Circle are far from examples of proper Southern womanhood.

... I wondered at the world of women... I must soon enter this world, where on the surface fragrant ladies rocked slowly, fanned gently, and drank cool water.  (Chapter 24)

Scout does see that Maudie and Alexandra are different from these women, however, and she is impressed when they recover from the news of Tom's death and return to serving refreshments as if nothing has happened.

     After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I.  (Chapter 24)

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

All three women significantly impact Scout's personality, perception of the world, and ideas regarding what it means to be a proper Southern woman. Calpurnia teaches Scout important lessons on humility and respect by chastising her for acting rudely towards Walter Cunningham Jr. Calpurnia also teaches Scout the importance of hard work and offers her a unique insight into the African American community by taking her to First Purchase African M.E. Church for Sunday service. Calpurnia is also an excellent role model and demonstrates the importance of being responsible, trustworthy, and honest.

Despite Aunt Alexandra's prejudiced views and obtuse obsession with heredity, she teaches Scout the art of decorum and offers Scout an opportunity to socialize with the local ladies. Alexandra models proper etiquette for Scout and encourages her to dress and act like a Southern woman. Alexandra also introduces Scout to the concept of family history, which is something celebrated in Southern society.

Miss Maudie positively influences Scout by spending quality time with her and shapes Scout's perception of the world. Maudie is a positive role model for Scout and expands upon Atticus's important life lessons. Maudie teaches Scout how to practice humility, maintain integrity, and treat others with compassion. Scout also learns the importance of seeing the positives in unfortunate situations from witnessing Maudie react to her house fire and listening to her discuss the trial. Overall, Maudie teaches Scout how to maintain a calm and collected disposition like a proper Southern woman.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question