In To Kill a Mockingbird, why did Atticus interrupt the gathering of the missionary circle to ask Calpurnia to accompany him?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus unexpectedly returns home asking the ladies to excuse him, and he urges Aunt Alexandra's guests to continue their meeting. He withholds the fact that he is bearing the tragic news of the death of Tom Robinson. Furthermore, he intends to solicit the aid of Calpurnia in consoling Tom's wife, Helen, and for this reason, he has returned earlier than he usually does when a Missionary Tea is scheduled. 

It is ironic that the sanctimonious hypocrite, Mrs. Merriweather, has just expounded on how the community would return to normal if they just forgive "them" and tell "them" that they have forgotten "it" because then "this whole thing'll blow over." Now, however, it is Maycomb's white society that needs forgiveness. For the jury of white men who feared that they might set a precedent by recognizing the black man's innocence of any crime, unjustly condemned him. It is also they who need forgiveness for their terrible sin of causing a kind and gentle man, whose only fault was being a "Negro," to despair of ever being acquitted. For in his desperation, Tom Robinson has chosen to take a chance at attempting escape. According to the account of the guards, he would have succeeded in lifting himself over the fence if he had had two healthy arms, but Tom only had one with which to pull himself up and off the prison fence.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to this question can be found in Chapter 24, which is where the missionary circle meet. Ironically, just before Atticus bursts in, the white women show their hypocrisy through their concern and compassion for African tribes far away from them but their racist attitudes towards the black servants they have, who they say have been playing up since Tom Robinson's trial. It is at this point that Atticus bursts in to take Calpurnia away. The reason is because Tom Robinson had just been shot:

"They shot him," said Atticus. "He was running. It was during their exercise period. They said he just broke into a blind raving charge at the fence and started climbing over. Right in front of them—"

This is of course a tragic event, but the fact was the guards shot him seventeen times, which is excessive, as Atticus himself notes. Atticus wants Calpurnia to go with him to go and tell Helen, Tom's wife, about this sad news. This chapter therefore focuses on the hypocrisy of white society and their ignorance of how blacks are being treated under their own nose before a tragic example of that very fact is introduced yet again.

myerska | Student

Calpurnia is the bridge between the white and black world for Atticus' children in the story. She also serves as bridge in her own black community for Atticus' motive in the case. She is a constant within the story and an appropriate help in delivering the devestating news of Tom's death to his family.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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