In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, Jem and Scout learn about and experience both the goodness of human nature as well as its corruption. One of the characters that is essential to this novel is Miss Maudie. Miss Maudie is Scout’s next door neighbor. She loves being outdoors and is one of the few people in town who feels that Tom Robinson deserves a fair trial, and that he most likely did not do what Mayella Ewell is accusing him of. Miss Maudie shares Atticus’ same passion for justice, and is one os Scout’s and Jem’s favorite adults within Maycomb. She offers Jem and Scout many insights into their father’s character, and helps them understand why he does what he does. Overall, Miss Maudie’s point of view is different from the typical civilian of Maycomb, which is why she is able to provide Scout and Jem with important lessons and experiences.
Miss Maudie Atkinson lives across the street from the Finch family; she had known the Finches for many years, having been brought up on the Buford place, which was near the Finch’s ancestral home, Finch Landing. She is described as a woman of about fifty who enjoys baking and gardening. Miss Maudie befriends Scout and Jem and tells them about Atticus as a boy. During the course of the novel, her house burns down; however, she shows remarkable courage throughout this – she even jokes that she wanted to burn it down herself to make more room for her flowers. “Why, I’d build me a couple of roomers and – gracious, ill have the finest yard in Alabama. Those Bellingraths’ll look plain puny when I get started!” (73). Another important attribute of Miss Maudie is that she is not prejudiced, unlike many of her Southern neighbors. She does not act condescendingly towards Scout and Jem, even though they are young children.
It is important to notice that Miss Maudie fully explained that “it is a sin to kill a mockingbird”, whereas Atticus Finch initially brought up the subject, but didn’t go into depth. She is also considered by some to be a symbolic Mockingbird, as she is frequently harassed by devout “Foot-Washing Baptists”, who tell her that her enjoyment of gardening is a sin. “‘Foot-washers believe that anything that’s pleasure is a sin. Did you know that some of ’em came out of the woods one Saturday and passed by this place and told me that me and my flowers were going to hell?'”(44). Miss Maudie is innocent in the fact that she only wants to enjoy gardening and doing what she likes to do, so when the “foot-washers” tell her that she will go to hell for gardening, they are hurting a mockingbird that is only doing what it is supposed to do.
In addition, Miss Maudie is one of the few adults of Maycomb in which Scout and Jem hold high regards and respect for. Her role in both Scout and Jem’s lives was essential in them learning and experiencing the goodness of human behavior such as kindness, courage, and humor. The best example of this is when Miss Maudie’s house burned down. “‘You ain’t grievin’ Miss Maudue?’ I asked, surprised. Aticus said her home was nearly all she had. ‘Grieving, child? Why, I’d hated that old cow barn. Thought of setting fire to it a hundred times myself – except they’d lock me up… Don’t worry about me Jean-Louise Finch, there are ways of doing things that you don’t know about.” (73).
Her positive outlook and optimism at first confuses Scout, but later, realizes that Miss Maudie has a tremendous amount of courage and learnes to keep an optimistic outlook throughout the course of the novel. Miss Maudie is also important in that she helps the children understand and gain perspectives on the events that surround the trial of Tom Robinson. Lastly, she is important because she fully explains the allusion to killing a mockingbird. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (91). While Atticus only touches upon the subject, Miss Maudie goes into depth about the topic and allows the children – and the reader – to better understand what the meaning of one of the novel’s most important allusion is.
Miss Maudie’s relationship with the rest of the town is not like that of her and the Finches. Maycomb is a typical Southern town in which most people have very prejudice views against black people. This is shown throughout the novel and even more evidently during Tom Robinson’s trial. “A jury never looks at a defendant it has convicted, and when this jury came in, not one of them looked at Tom robinson. The foreman handed a piece of paper to Mr. Tate who handed it to the judge… I shut my eyes. Judge Taylor was polling the jury: ‘Guilty… guilty… guilty… ” (211). This shows that even though Atticus almost certainly proved that Tom was innocent, the jury of white people ruled the suspicious and unreliable testimony of two whites instead of actual evidence against the black man. Although a majority of Maycomb’s population is prejudice, Miss Maudie does not follow the same morals, and believes that black people are their equals. She believes that Tom Robinson was not guilty and in fact did not commit whatever crime Mayella Ewell accused him of. Thus, Miss Maudie is an individual who is capable of deciding for herself, what the moral thing to do is.
Therefore, Miss Maudie was a very important adult figure in both Scout and Jem’s life. She provided them with many different explanations and reasons to why people do things, that in part shape Scout’s and Jem’s character. Although Miss Maudie lives amongst a racist southern town, her views on equal rights are completely different from that of Maycomb. She upholds her own upright morals and shows an immense amount of courage throughout the novel. In addition, her positive outlook on life and her overall optimism allow her to be someone who may have had a positive influence on the rest of Maycomb. Although she is a minor character, we should still strive to have some aspect of Miss Maudie’s morals and outlook on life within us throughout our everyday lives.