Why did Aunt Alexandra silently thank Miss Maudie in To Kill a Mockingbird?
During the ladies social in chapter 24, Aunt Alexandra is barely holding it together. She is worried about her brother Atticus, and is having a hard time with the hypocritical and racist remarks of others. When Miss Maudie intervenes, she is grateful to have someone on her side.
“His food doesn’t stick going down, does it?”
This statement outlines the hypocrisy of those who are willing to enjoy Atticus's hospitality and eat his food, even though they talk about him behind his back.
Scout is surprised that Aunt Alexandra could be grateful for anything. She is puzzled by what her aunt would thank Miss Maudie for.
She gave Miss Maudie a look of pure gratitude, and I wondered at the world of women. Miss Maudie and Aunt Alexandra had never been especially close, and here was Aunty silently thanking her for something. For what, I knew not.
This is an example of Scout not understanding the adult world. She doesn’t understand how politeness requires Miss Maudie to say what she means to say indirectly, and Alexandra to thank her indirectly.
In chapter twenty-four, Aunt Alexandra hosts her missionary circle at the Finch house, and Scout is invited to engage in the social event. While the women are drinking their tea in the living room, Mrs. Merriweather begins to discuss the solemn behavior of her African American helpers following the Tom Robinson trial. She then makes the comment,
There are some good but misguided people in this town. Good, but misguided.
Mrs. Merriweather indirectly criticizes Atticus for defending Tom Robinson and believes that the only thing Atticus did was to "stir 'em up." Miss Maudie recognizes Mrs. Merriweather's indirect criticism of Atticus and subtly defends Atticus by saying, "His food doesn't stick going down, does it?" When Aunt Alexandra gets up to pass out the refreshments, she gives Maudie a look of pure gratitude, which astonishes Scout. Aunt Alexandra was silently thanking Maudie for defending her brother against Mrs. Merriweather's indirect criticism.