Who is Sunday's offering being taken up for in To Kill a Mockingbird? Why?  

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sunday’s offering is begin taken for Helen Robinson because her husband is in jail and no one will hire her.

When Jem and Scout accompany Calpurnia to church, they see many things they have not seen before.  They have never been in the African American church.  Calpurnia wants to make sure that they make a good impression, but not everyone is happy that they are there.  Some people feel that they do not belong.  However, Reverend Sykes is aware of and appreciative of their father’s contribution to the community in defending Tom Robinson.

The children are surprised that almost no one in the church can read, other than the preacher and Zeebo, Calpurnia’s son.  The children see that the Reverend has taken up a collection for Helen Robinson.

“You all know of Brother Tom Robinson’s trouble.  He has been a faithful member of First Purchase since he was a boy. The collection taken up today and for the next three Sundays will go to Helen—his wife, to help her out at home.” (Ch. 12)

The Reverend takes the creative approach of saying no one can leave until they have a good collection of at least ten dollars.  He is aware that not only has the family lost Tom Robinson’s income, but Helen too is having a hard time finding work because of what her husband is accused of.

Scout asks why they are taking a collection for Helen, and at first Reverend Sykes says that it is because she can’t work because of her children.  Then he admits the real reason when asked why she can’t just take the children with her.

Reverend Sykes hesitated. “To tell you the truth, Miss Jean Louise, Helen’s finding it hard to get work these days… when it’s picking time, I think Mr. Link Deas’ll take her.” (Ch. 12)

The treatment of Helen by the town is another example of the assumption of guilt Maycomb has.  They assume that if a black man is accused of doing something, he is guilty.  The fact that Tom Robinson was accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman, makes matters worse.  Not only does Helen lose her husband, she is also a pariah.

This chapter demonstrates the harsh reality of segregation.  The church is crumbling and no one can read.  The town turns against Helen Robinson because of what her husband is accused of.  Many of the churchgoers are suspicious of Scout and Jem, because they are white children and do not belong there.  All in all, the visit makes quite an impression on Scout.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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