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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, why does Miss Maudie touch Scout's hand when the women of the missionary circle ask Scout questions?

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At Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle, Scout successfully carries a pitcher of coffee to the ladies. Proud of this accomplishment, Aunt Alexandra "smiled brilliantly" and asks Scout to join the ladies. Scout is uncomfortable among the ladies but tries to appease her Aunt Alexandra by dressing in her "pink Sunday dress" and taking a seat near Miss Maudie. Earlier in the novel in Chapter 5, Scout shares a moment in which she knew she and Miss Maudie would be friends. Scout remembers that, "With a click of her tongue she thrust out her bridgework, a gesture of cordiality that cemented our friendship."

Once seated, Scout is faced with the daunting task of answering the ladies' questions. She is clearly nervous as she sits holding tightly to the chair. It is Miss Maudie who poses the first question asking, "Where are your britches today?" Scout responds that they are "under her dress." Scout is not intending to make a joke, but all of the ladies laugh at her except for Miss Maudie.

Miss Stephanie asks if Scout plans to be a lawyer. Scout responds that she plans to be a lady and again, the ladies laugh. Miss Maudie touches Scout's hand, and she is able to stay calm and speak. Miss Stephanie then lets Scout know that she'll need to start wearing more dresses. At this point, Miss Maudie squeezes Scout's hand and according to Scout, "Its warmth was enough." Miss Maudie knows that Scout is nervous. Her touch calms Scout and helps her feel comfortable.

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In Chapter 24, Aunt Alexandra hosts a missionary circle group at the Finch residence. Ladies from Maycomb County come over to the Finch's to discuss the lives of the Mrunas in Africa and gossip about community members. Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle is the epitome of upper-class Southern tradition in which ladies dress up to socialize over tea and treats. Scout, who is a "tomboy," is confused and anxious about partaking in the social event with the Maycomb ladies. Scout refers to the affair as Alexandra's "campaign to teach me to be a lady." (Lee 307) Miss Stephanie asks Scout whether she wants to be a lawyer when she grows up in an attempt to involve her in the conversation. After Scout says she hasn't thought about becoming a lawyer, Miss Stephanie makes a lighthearted joke about Scout already attending a court hearing and repeats her question again. Miss Maudie senses Scout's anxiety and touches Scout's hand to comfort her. Miss Stephanie says, "Well, you won't get very far until you start wearing dresses more often." (Lee 308) That comment typically upsets Scout, who is sick of hearing how she should dress like a lady. Miss Maudie squeezes Scout's hand after Miss Stephanie's comment. Scout mentions that "Its warmth was enough." (Lee 308) By touching and squeezing Scout's hand, Miss Maudie shows her support for Scout and does so to comfort her.

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