Who is Calpurnia in To Kill a Mockingbird? What is her place in the Finch household?

Expert Answers
MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bluntly, Calpurnia is the Finches' housekeeper. However, she is so much more to the family. She acts as a mother figure to Jem and Scout, as she practically raised them after their mother's death. Along with Miss Maudie, Calpurnia is a strong, positive female influence in Jem & Scout's lives. She is a parallel to Atticus in her lessons of politeness and compassion. She contrasts with Aunt Alexandra's harsh discipline and strict gender roles. Indeed, when Aunt Alexandra comes to stay, she argues with Atticus over Calpurnia's role. She wants Calpurnia gone, but Atticus knows how important she is to the family.

On Scout's first day of school, Scout brings home Walter Cunningham for lunch. She then makes fun of him for pouring maple syrup on hif food. Walter becomes extremely embarrassed, and Calpurnia scolds Scout. She makes it clear that guests are to be treated with respect. This is similar to the lessons Scout and Jem will learn about treating all people with respect. Calpurnia also has a loving side as well. That same day, after school, she makes Scout's favorite food, crackling bread.

Calpurnia serves as a bridge between the black and white worlds of Maycomb. She is essentially the first black woman the children have ever interacted with, & that experience shapes their ideas of race and equality. sometimes, scout finds it difficult to reconcile the Calpurnia in the house with the public Calpurnia. When the children visit Calpurnia's church with her, they face discrimination and rejection of their own. Also, Scout questions Calpurnia's language use, & realizes that this woman has many sides. Although the majority of parishioners welcome them during their church visit, one woman challenges the white children. Calpurnia responds by calling them her guests and saying "it's the same God, ain't it?"

This combination of discipline, logic, and kindness makes Calpurnia the ideal female role model for Scout and Jem.

ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Calpurnia is the loyal housekeeper for Atticus Finch.  She came in to help Atticus with Scout and Jem after the death of her mother.  Calpurnia was a Black woman, but she was a mother figure to Atticus' children.  Aunt Alexandra resented the influence that Calpurnia had on the children and asked Atticus to tell Cal she was not needed anymore.  She said it was not good form to have a Black woman like Cal raising his children.  Atticus became very angry with his sister and told her that he doesn't know what he would have done without Calpurnia after the children's mother died.  He told Alexandra that Cal was a member of the family and would not be leaving until she was ready to leave.

"One of several strong female figures in the lives of the Finch children, Calpurnia is the family's black housekeeper. She has helped to raise Jem and Scout since their mother's death four years ago. Like Atticus, Calpurnia is a strict but loving teacher, particularly in regard to Scout, whose enthusiasm sometimes makes her thoughtless. On Scout's first day of school, for example, Calpurnia scolds Scout for criticizing the table manners of Walter Cunningham Jr., whom the children have brought home as a lunch guest. That day after school, however, Calpurnia prepares Scout's favorite food, crackling bread, as a special treat."

Stephanie Gregg eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Calpurnia is the Finch's housekeeper.  She has been with Atticus since before his wife died, and she now serves as a sort of surrogate mother to the children.  Having Calpurnia in the household creates a tension for Scout between the affection she feels for Calpurnia and the animosity that her white community feels toward the black community of Maycomb.  This strange juxtaposition is most clearly seen when Calpurnia takes the children to church with her.  Having rarely been in social relationships with blacks, Scout is surprised at how sincerely nice and cordial the church folk are to her.  Calpurnia dresses up the children and shows them off almost as if they were her own.  Scout sees Calpurnia's son, who is the song leader, and for the first time sees Calpurnia as having a life outside the Finch house.  Without Calpurnia's presence and the familial relationship she has with the family, the race conflict that Scout faces would not be as prominent.

hello94 | Student

she is basically the "house keeper"/ a mother figure towards jem and scout. She is teh house keeper and cleans, cooks.She is also like a mother because Scout doesnt hav any female to look up to, so she looks up to calpurnia for advice and help. Also calpurnia lets Scout demonstrate the theme :how to be a lady.

user6161916 | Student

if mayella ewell's mother died when she was little then whos little children are the ones that live with her and her father?

zumba96 | Student

Calpurnia is the house keeper in the house but is sort of like a mother figure to the children. She is also a strong believer in justice and proper morals and tells the children to follow this route. She has stuck with the family through thick and thin and Atticus is behind her and knows that unless Calpurnia is not ready to leave, then nobody can take her out of the house. 

mancityrules | Student

Calpurnia is the Finches’ black cook acting as a stern disciplinarian and a surrogate mother for Jem and Scout. Atticus trusts and relies on her entirely describing her in Chapter 14 as a “faithful member of the family”. Calpurnia is kind and loving towards the children and is only stern towards them in their best interests.

Atticus trusts Cal with the care of his children, valuing her loyalty and supporting her when Aunt Alexandra is critical. Atticus states that “Calpurnia’s not leaving the house until she wants to” (142) which shows that Atticus feels that she has free will and therefore treats her as a family member and not as a servant.

When Scout treats Walter Cunningham discourteously at lunch it is Calpurnia’s job to reprimand her. We learn that Calpurnia, despite clashes between the white and black population in Maycomb during the Civil War, has adopted her own view of how people should be treated with justice and fairness. She partakes in Scout’s moral education by teaching her that everyone is entitled to respect, courtesy and tolerance.


jmuth1023 | Student

Calpurnia is the made/cook that takes care of Scout and of Jem.

lacibabyy00 | Student

Calpurnias the made that atticus hired to take care of his children scout & jem.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question