Chapters 12 and 13
This is the third and last summer covered by our tale To Kill a Mockingbird.
Jem is now twelve and is called Mr. Jem by Calpurnia, a term reserved for adults. He tells Scout to stop pestering him, a sign that she has now lost her childhood friend.
Scout receives a further blow when they receive a letter from Dill saying
that his mother has remarried and he won’t be coming this summer, as he will be staying with his new family in Meridian.
Scout finds herself alone and the only person to give her any company is
Calpurnia. She keeps Scout entertained in the kitchen letting her help in the preparation of the family meals.
Atticus now has to go to the State capital for a few weeks, leaving
Calpurnia in charge of the children.
She decides to take them to her church, a ‘colored church’, which is in an old building called ‘First Purchase’ because it was bought with the first earnings of the freed slaves. One of the congregation criticizes Calpurnia for bringing white children to a black church, but generally the congregation are friendly and the Rev. Sykes gives them a warm welcome. All the black community knows Atticus and he is well respected.
Very few of the congregation can read and they only have one hymnal which
Zeebo, Calpurnia’s son reads from and the congregation repeats the lines.
Scout learns that Bob Ewell and his daughter have accused Tom Robinson of
rape and she cannot understand why anyone would value Ewell’s word. A collection is made at the church to help Mrs. Robinson.
When they return from church they find Aunt Alexandra waiting for
them. Atticus has asked her to stay with them for a while in order to provide Scout with some proper feminine influence.
She receives a warm welcome from the lady folk of the town and soon becomes an integral part of the town’s social life. Aunt Alexandra is very proud of the Finch family and it is one of the favorite pastimes of the womenfolk to discuss the attributes of all the main families within Maycomb. Jem and Scout at this stage do not have any particular pride in being Finch’s and Aunt Alexandra is on a crusade to rectify this situation. She persuades Atticus to lecture them on the subject of their ancestry, but he fails in this attempt only succeeding in making Scout cry.
With school out, Scout’s valuable education recommences and she will, in
fact, learn so much during this summer that it will influence the rest of her life.
More and more the adult world is invading Scout’s childhood.
Her journey to Calpurnia’s church is probably her first glimpse of the black
community in action.
The reader also obtains an insight and flavor of the black community as it was in the 1930’s. There is an air of impoverishness hanging over the church, the building is derelict and unpainted and they sing without hymnals and the congregation is largely illiterate. However, it is clear that there is a strong faith amongst the black congregation.
We again come across various types of prejudice in these chapters.
Calpurnia thinks of the Finch children as her own and deems it quite natural
for her to take them to her church, yet she is faced with prejudice from a few of the congregation, in particular, one named Lula who says ‘I wants to know why you bringin’ white chillun to nigger church’.
Prejudice appears to run from black towards white as much as from white towards black. On this occasion, the children are similar to mockingbirds – they are there to please Calpurnia and to worship. Undoubtedly this experience will give the children more compassion towards Tom’s treatment from a white jury, but it is clear that the majority of the congregation are pleased to see the Finch children, not only because they respect their father, but because they share in the same faith.
Another interesting thing is that the two communities speak the English
language differently, but Calpurnia is a master of both, easily switching from one to the other, depending on where she is.
It is clear that the experience in the black church is an eye-opener for Jem
and Scout, surprised to find that only four people in the church can read. The black community in Maycomb is denied an education. Lee uses the children’s ignorance to underline the injustice, which
African Americans receive in all aspects of their lives.
She has emphasized this point early in the novel, illustrating that even the Ewell’s have the opportunity to learn, but Burris only goes to school on the opening day.
Earlier in the tale when Jem was younger he used to criticize his younger
sister for her girly behavior.
Now he has gone full circle by saying that she should act more like a girl. Scout’s lack of femininity is a concern amongst the Finch’s and Aunt Alexandra has been given the task of providing a feminine influence in Scout’s life. This will fail because Aunt Alexandra will try and force Scout to adopt a more feminine attitude and she will be naturally drawn towards Calpurnia and Miss Maudie who adopt a more persuasive, but less forceful approach.
Also, Aunt Alexandra holds many of Maycomb’s prejudices against
blacks. She has an African American chauffeur and says ‘Put my bags in the front bedroom, Calpurnia’, before she even says hello.
The fact that Jem is determined to take the bags shows both maturity and lack of prejudice on his part.
All in all, this is a very confusing time for Scout.