Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Start Free Trial

How does Part 1 of To Kill a Mockingbird portray Calpurnia as a motherly figure to Jem and Scout?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Calpurnia is not simply a nanny or housekeeper for the Finch family.  She truly loves the children and wants not only to raise them correctly by society's standards but also to raise them morally. Several examples include:

-She doesn't allow Jem and Scout to get away with much (back talk, being rude to others--Walter Cunningham, unkempt appearances).  It would be easier for Cal if she just allowed the children to do whatever they want, but she cares too much about them to allow them to run wild.

-She takes the time to teach Scout to read.  True, Atticus does allow Scout to read from the paper, but Scout also attributes her reading ability to Cal, showing that Cal spends extra time with the children when she could be home or completing other tasks in the Finch household.

Hope this helps.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Calpurnia had been a part of the children's lives since they were born, and over the years she had become a part of the family. In addition to cooking for them, keeping house, and sending them out of the house in clean clothes, Calpurnia often acts as a moral guide, protector, referee, and disciplinarian. Scout, being younger and more irrepressible, earns the greater amount of Cal's attention. It was Cal who taught Scout to write by having her copy chapters from the Bible and rewarding her if Cal judged Scout's penmanship to be satisfactory. According to Scout, the rewards were few and far between. Cal set high standards. When Scout humiliated young Walter Cunningham at lunch one day, it was Cal who sent her into the kitchen and made her understand in no uncertain terms how guests were to be treated in their home.

Besides disciplining Scout when necessary, Cal treated her with tenderness when Scout needed tenderness. After Scout's very rough first day of school, Cal told her that she had been lonely without her and made a special treat for her (cracklin' bread). To Scout's great surprise, Calpurnia then kissed her.

Cal understood the changes in Jem as he was growing up, and comforted Scout when she felt isolated from her brother. She watched them both, kept track of them, and made them lemonade each summer day. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial