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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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In which ways do Calpurnia, Miss Maudie, and Aunt Alexandra influence Scout's growing understanding of what it means to be a southern lady in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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All three women significantly impact Scout's personality, perception of the world, and ideas regarding what it means to be a proper Southern woman. Calpurnia teaches Scout important lessons of humility and respect by chastising her for acting rudely toward Walter Cunningham Jr. Calpurnia also teaches Scout the importance of hard work and offers her a unique insight into the African American community by taking her to First Purchase African M.E. Church for Sunday service. Calpurnia is also an excellent role model and demonstrates the importance of being responsible, trustworthy, and honest.

Despite Aunt Alexandra's prejudiced views and obtuse obsession with heredity, she teaches Scout the art of decorum and offers Scout an opportunity to socialize with the local ladies. Alexandra models proper etiquette for Scout and encourages her to dress and act like a Southern woman. Alexandra also introduces Scout to the concept of family history, which is something celebrated in Southern society.

Miss Maudie positively influences Scout by spending quality time with her and shapes Scout's perception of the world. Maudie is a positive role model for Scout and expands upon Atticus's important life lessons. Maudie teaches Scout how to practice humility, maintain integrity, and treat others with compassion. Scout also learns the importance of seeing the positives in unfortunate situations from witnessing Maudie react to her house fire and listening to her discuss the trial. Overall, Maudie teaches Scout how to maintain a calm and collected disposition like a proper Southern woman.

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Miss Maudie primarily leads by example, demonstrating how she can be an independent woman in a man's world and still maintain her feminine charms.

She was... a chameleon lady who worked in her flower beds in an old straw hat and men's coveralls, but after her five o'clock bath she would appear on the porch and reign over the street in magisterial beauty.  (Chapter 5)

She always calls Scout "Jean Louise" and refuses to lower herself to the gossip and racial hatred exhibited by Miss Stephanie and the women of the Missionary Circle. Calpurnia, meanwhile, is quick to point out Scout's transgressions, and it takes Scout a while to understand that Cal does this out of love and a desire to make her a better person. Cal scolds Scout when she embarrasses Walter for having "drowned his dinner in syrup," pointing out that he is her guest and how

"... anybody sets foot in this house's yo comp'ny, and don't let me catch you remarkin' on their ways like you was so high and mighty!"  (Chapter 3)

Cal makes sure that Scout is dressed in her Sunday best when she takes the children to her church because "I don't want anybody sayin' I don't look after my children." Aunt Alexandra, meanwhile, is fantatical about turning Scout into a little lady (she has nearly accomplished this with her grandson, Francis), and she fights with Atticus about her right to exert a "feminine influence." Like Miss Maudie, Alexandra also tries to lead by example,...

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and she becomes active in many social organizations. But Scout can see through Alexandra's beliefs in Fine Folks and gentle breeding, and Scout quickly sees that the "ladies" of the Missionary Circle are far from examples of proper Southern womanhood.

... I wondered at the world of women... I must soon enter this world, where on the surface fragrant ladies rocked slowly, fanned gently, and drank cool water.  (Chapter 24)

Scout does see that Maudie and Alexandra are different from these women, however, and she is impressed when they recover from the news of Tom's death and return to serving refreshments as if nothing has happened.

     After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I.  (Chapter 24)

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Because Scout is motherless, Atticus knows that she must have a feminine influence and leaves that task to several women whom he trusts.  Each influences Scout in a different way.

Calpurnia: Calpurnia is a true mother figure to Scout.  She takes care of her daily needs, helps teach her to read, disciplines her, and even shows her off at church.  From Calpurnia, Scout learns that Southern ladies are tenacious and protective.  She watches Calpurnia's reaction when the rabid dog comes near Jem and her; she realizes (as part of her maturation) what Calpurnia has had to endure not just as a woman but also as a black woman living in the South.  Finally, she learns from Cal what it means to show hospitality as a Southern woman, especially from Cal and her church's response to Attitus's defense of Tom.

Aunt Alexandra: Scout learns from her aunt what it means to be a gracious lady even when people make distasteful comments in one's home.  The tea party at Atticus's house is a good example of this.  Aunt Alexandra maintains her poise even though the other "ladies" are speaking badly about her brother.  Scout also learns from her aunt that even the most stubborn, set-in-their-ways Southern women can change, hence, her aunt's changing perspective toward the Tom Robinson case as the trial ends.

Miss Maudie: Scout learns from Miss Maudie that sometimes Southern ladies need to be bold, especially in defense of their friends and family.  At the tea, Miss Maudie does what Aunt Alexandra does not feel she can do as a hostess by putting the other ladies in their place by running down Atticus at his own table.  Scout also learns from Miss Maudie that true Southern ladies don't gossip or prejudge others.

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How have Aunt Alexandra, Miss Maudie and Calpurnia influenced Scout?In what specific ways?

The end of chapter 24 is the first time when Scout realizes that Aunt Alexandra has a heart.  She's worried sick for Atticus and his health during this trial.  Aunt Alexandra more importantly shows Scout the true meaning of being a lady.  It isn't about gossiping circles of women: it's about a woman keeping her cool when things get tough.  Scout sees her hold her head high and move on as if nothing has happened, when she could've run into the room spreading the word of Tom's death.

Miss Maudie shows Scout another form of being a lady.  When Miss Merriweather begins to criticize Atticus in his own home in front of both Alexandra and Scout, Miss Maudie shuts her up with (along the lines of) "his food doesn't stick going down, does it?"  Her icy demeanor and confidence put Miss Merriweather in her place and she says no more.  She does not stand and she does not raise her voice.  But she gets her point across quickly.

As for Calpurnia, she had two major influences on Scout.  First she acts as a mother when young Walter came to eat lunch in chapter 3 by correcting her and spanking her for not treating Walter like company. (no matter how he eats his lunch)

The second influence occurs at Cal's church in chapter 12.  There she shows Scout (with Lula) that she has to live two separate lives:  she is an educated woman, but she is also a black woman.  She must respect both "worlds" and those in them.

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