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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Can you provide quotes that describe Calpurnia in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Calpurnia is the Finch family's cook and is an integral part of Jem's and Scout's lives. Atticus completely trusts and respects Calpurnia, and he defends her when Aunt Alexandra suggests that he get rid of her. As a child, Scout continually argues with Calpurnia, who is quick to chastise her for misbehaving or acting rude. Despite their disagreements, Scout learns to appreciate Calpurnia and is aware that Cal truly cares about her. In chapter 1, Scout gives a vivid description of Calpurnia:

"She [Calpurnia] was all angles and bones; she was nearsighted; she squinted; her hand was wide as a bed slat and twice as hard. She was always ordering me out of the kitchen, asking me why I couldn’t behave as well as Jem when she knew he was older, and calling me home when I wasn’t ready to come. Our battles were epic and one-sided. Calpurnia always won, mainly because Atticus always took her side. She had been with us ever since Jem was born, and I had felt her tyrannical presence as long as I could remember" (Lee, 6).

In chapter 12, Calpurnia takes Jem and Scout to Sunday service at First Purchase African M.E. Church because Atticus is out of town. During their visit, the children gain valuable insight into Maycomb's black community and are surprised to learn that Calpurnia is one of the few educated, literate black citizens in Maycomb. They also discover Calpurnia's ability to speak differently in various social settings. Scout says,

"That Calpurnia led a modest double life never dawned on me. The idea that she had a separate existence outside our household was a novel one, to say nothing of her having command of two languages" (Lee, 127).

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Calpurnia (her last name is never mentioned) is the Finch family's African American housekeeper. She worked for Atticus's father at Finch's Landing before moving to Maycomb when Atticus got married. She spends each day at the Finch house before returning at night to her home in the Quarters. Scout does not get along with the strict-but-fair Cal early in the story, but the two establish a bond as Scout grows older. When Aunt Alexandra suggests that Cal be dismissed as housekeeper, Atticus nixes any such conversation, assuring his sister that Cal is a "faithful member of this family" and that "the children love her." Scout thinks that Cal, a grandmother, "don't look near as old as Atticus." Nearsighted with a squint,

She was all angles and bones; she was nearsighted; she squinted; her hand was wide as a bed slat and twice as hard   (Chapter 1, page 6)

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