In To Kill A Mockingbird, who are the Mrunas and why are they interesting to the missionary circle?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In To Kill A Mockingbird, the reader is very familiar with the conflict between actually doing good and having the appearance of doing good. There are many people in Maycomb County who appear to do good, the ladies in the Missionary Circle amongst them, but their actions in their own community belie (contradict) their words.

Stereotypes play a major role in establishing the themes in To Kill A Mockingbird and the Mrunas fit the description of basic savages , in what the women believe living conditions in Africa must be like. The women feel pity for the Mruna Tribe, living in "that jungle,"where they live in "sin and squalor." The missionary who works with the tribe is described as "saintly," being the only "white person'll go near'em." The ladies believe that their actions, in raising funds for the upliftment of the tribe, raise them above others and confirm their Christian attitude. 

It does not occur to them, however, that their actions and beliefs are hypocritical. Mrs Merriweather becomes emotional when she considers the plight of the "poor Mrunas," because helping the "oppressed," is a good and Christian thing to do. She feels that she fulfills her Christian duty. However, she has no pity for Tom Robinson, never stopping to consider his innocence or the far-reaching effects of the trial.  

The Mrunas are, therefore, interesting to the missionary circle because they allow the ladies to maintain the appearance of doing good works in the name of Christianity. They feel better about themselves and think they are making a meaningful contribution to society. 

gkopf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is not the only time the people of Maycomb take up a cause for a marginalized group.  Later in the book, Scout's classmate Cecil Jacobs brings up Adolf Hitler and his treatment of the Jews in class.  Miss Gates, the teacher, discusses the issue with her class.  According to Miss Gates, Americans can't stand by and watch other being oppressed.  She expresses compassion for the Jews, who are being abused and killed by Hitler.

This directly contrasts Maycomb's attitude towards the black population.  Again, they are hypocritical because they are choosing who they will feel sympathy for. They are willing to help the Mrunas and they feel for the Jewish people, but they are unwilling to help the black population in their own town.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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