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?

1 Answer | Add Yours

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

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)

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,926 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question