To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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Why does Miss Maudie get angry at Mrs. Merriweather in Chapter 24 at the tea party in To Kill a Mockingbird? 

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 24, Scout attends Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle for the first time and experiences how the Maycomb women socialize. Instead of discussing missionary work and Christian endeavors, the conversation quickly shifts to the atmosphere around town following the Tom Robinson trial. Mrs. Merriweather, who is an outspoken hypocrite, begins to discuss how her black maid and field hands have been grumbling about Tom Robinson's verdict. Mrs. Merriweather believes that they should stop complaining and hypocritically comments that they should act more like Jesus Christ. Mrs. Merriweather then indirectly criticizes Atticus for defending Tom Robinson by saying,

"I tell you there are some good but misguided people in this town. Good, but misguided. Folks in this town who think they’re doing right, I mean. Now far be it from me to say who, but some of ‘em in this town thought they were doing the right thing a while back, but all they did was stir ’em up. That’s all they did" (Lee, 236).

Miss Maudie becomes upset that Mrs. Merriweather is indirectly ridiculing Atticus and says to her, "His food doesn’t stick going down, does it?" (Lee, 237). Maudie's brief comment is enough to stop Mrs. Merriweather from continuing to criticize Atticus, and Scout notices how Aunt Alexandra subtly thanks Maudie for defending her brother by giving her a look of "pure gratitude."

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bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Miss Maudie doesn't appear to be very happy with some of her friends at the Missionary Circle meeting: she is forced to comfort Scout with a touch of her hand when Miss Stephanie makes Scout the butt of several of her jokes.

Miss Maudie's hand closed tightly on mine, and I said nothing. Its warmth was enough.  (Chapter 24)

Later, Maudie listens silently as the ladies' talk goes from helping the poor Mruna tribe in Africa, to bad-mouthing the Negroes who live in Maycomb. But when Mrs. Merriweather's insults are aimed at Atticus, Maudie fires back. Mrs. Merriweather does not mention Atticus by name, but she claims that there are "good but misguided people in this town" who stir up the Negroes.

"Now far be it from me to say who, but some of 'em in this town thought they were doing the right thing a while back, but all they did was stir 'em up."  (Chapter 24)

Maudie responds by asking Mrs. Merriweather,

"His food doesn't stick going down, does it?"  (Chapter 24)

Maudie's question refers to the food that Atticus has purchased for the occasion, and how Mrs. Merriweather seems to be enjoying it, even if she does not approve of Atticus's defense of Tom Robinson. Mrs. Merriweather's ungracious remark, insulting Atticus in his own house while eating the food he has provided, makes Maudie's gray eyes turn cold and "icy." Aunt Alexandra appreciates Maudie's words in defense of her brother, and she gives Miss Maudie "a look of pure gratitude."

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