Who is described with the hyperbole "she seemed seven feet high" in Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lula was a troublemaker who tried to insult Calpurnia at her church for bringing Scout and Jem.  

When Atticus was away, Calpurnia decided to take Scout and Jem to church with her.  She was afraid of the trouble that they might get into going to their own church without her.  The kids had never been to her church before.  It was the African-American church called First Purchase.  Almost immediately there was trouble.  

Most of the churchgoers greeted Cal, but she was accosted by a woman named Lula. 

[Standing] in the path behind us was a tall Negro woman. Her weight was on one leg; she rested her left elbow in the curve of her hip, pointing at us with upturned palm. She was bullet-headed with strange almond-shaped eyes, straight nose, and an Indian-bow mouth. She seemed seven feet high. (Ch. 12)

The description that she seemed seven feet high is known as hyperbole, which is “obvious and deliberate exaggeration or an extravagant statement” (Guide to Literary Terms).  She describes her this way because she is afraid of her.  Cal is not afraid, though.  Neither is Cal’s son Zeebo.  He tells them to ignore her.

 “Mister Jem,” he said, “we’re mighty glad to have you all here. Don’t pay no ‘tention to Lula, she’s contentious because Reverend Sykes threatened to church her. She’s a troublemaker from way back, got fancy ideas an’ haughty ways—we’re mighty glad to have you all.” (Ch. 12)

Lula's contention is that the white children do not belong at their church because white people do not treat them well.  Calpurnia calls them company, but Lula says that Cal is not their company when she is at their house during the week.  She has a point, but the Finches treat Cal better than most whites treat their help, and she wants Scout and Jem to be treated as her guests regardless of their race.  It is another example of strained race relations in Maycomb.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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