To Kill a Mockingbird, Calpurnia’s Perspective Essay
Calpurnia’s Perspective of Understanding Others To Kill a Mocking Bird is a classic novel about a young lady growing up in the south during the 1930’s. Calpurnia is a character in this novel that represents the theme of “understanding people who are different”. Throughout the novel, Calpurnia teaches Jem and Scout that being different isn’t all that bad. Cal’s lifestyle outside of the Finch family represents how people are different from others. She also helps break the barrier between blacks and whites in the southern town.
On multiple occasions, Calpurnia teaches Jem and Scout the lesson of understanding others.
At one point in the book, Walter Cunningham is invited to lunch at the Finches home. Walter is a very poor boy, and is rarely spoiled with food. Once he’s at lunch, he begins to eat as much as he can; he even drenches his food in molasses. Scout has a fit about Walter ruining his food, so Cal calls Scout into the kitchen.
She explains to Scout that not everyone has access to food all the time. She then scolds Scout for being so disrespectful to her company. “Don’t matter who they are, anybody sets foot in this house’s yo’ company, and don’t let me catch you remarkin’ on their ways like you was so high and mighty” (pg. 4). After going to her church with Jem and Scout, Cal explains to the children why her church only has one hymn book unlike others. She tells them that not everyone in the church can read, so they sing together by linin’(124-125). Later in the novel, she sets an example that helps teach Jem and Scout a lesson by going with Atticus to the Robinson’s home. At the end of the book, when Atticus goes to Helen Robinson to tell her that Tom was dead, Cal went with him. She went inside with Atticus and helped to comfort Helen.
This example taught the children that even though Helen was losing Tom in a different way than the town, it impacts her more than anyone, and helping Helen was a way to show that (240). When she’s not working for the Finch family, Cal lives a very different lifestyle. When Cal is at church with others that are also African American, she talks in “.. Nigger-Talk” as Scout calls it (125). This helps Scout understand, that even though Cal is different, she’s still a good person. Cal talks this way because she was raised to talk like that amongst friends because that’s how all blacks talked.
When they are also at Church with Cal, the children see her as a different person. They come to learn that Cal doesn’t know her real birthday, so she celebrates at Christmas. She’s viewed differently amongst the children, but she’s still the Calpurnia they know and love. The reader of this novel can also learn that even back in the 1930’s it was still unheard of for blacks to be able to read and write. This helps us learn about Cal and her differences, and teaches us why she acts the way she does. She is one of four people in her church congregation that can read and write.
This also helps us understand why the African Americans in the story act the way they do. Seeing the children understand how Cal is different helps the reader understand her friends as well. Calpurnia helps break the barrier between whites and blacks a great deal in the novel. Cal takes the children to her church in the novel because Atticus is in town dealing with work. The children have never been to Calpurnia’s church before because it was unheard of for whites to go to a black church. Cal is confronted by fellow church mate Lula.
Lula asks Cal why she’s bringing “white chillum to nigger church” (119). Cal replies that “it’s the same God ain’t it (119)? ” This opens the minds others who may go to Cal’s church, like Cal’s friends Zeebo. “…we’re mighty glad to have you all here. Don’t pay ‘tention to Lula, she’s contentious because Reverend Sikes threatened to church her. She’s a troublemaker from way back, got fancy ideas an’ haughty ways- we’re mighty glad to have you all” (119). Cal helps represent that no matter the skin color, everyone goes to church for the same reason, to praise and thank God.
Being friends with Maudie Atkinson also shows that regardless of your skin color, people can still be friends. This also shows how Cal helps break down the wall between different races. And lastly, Cal also shows how the whites are as similar to blacks by treating the Finch children as she would her own. She helps raise Jem and Scout, and it seems that they both look at Cal not only as a friend, but also as a second mother. Even though she is hired to be the Finch housekeeper, Cal loves Scout and Jem like her own as well. It shows that blacks are just as much people as the whites are.
In Conclusion, Calpurnia is one of the many important minor characters. She teaches both the readers and the children in the novel how “Understanding people who are different” is important in life. She uses herself as an example in many cases to help understand others who are different from you. And she helps break down the walls between segregation and integration in Maycomb. “Understanding others who are different”, is a great theme supported in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee greatly illustrated by the character of Calpurnia.