Calpurnia is the African-American
cook and housekeeper for the Finches. Calpurnia acts as a mother
figure and disciplinarian in the Finch household. Atticus trusts
Calpurnia, relies on her for support raising his children, and considers
her part of the family. Calpurnia also gives the children insight
into her world when she takes them to her church.
In some ways she even takes the place of Scout
and Jem's dead mother. But you soon learn that Calpurnia is not
accepted by everyone. Some of the Finches' white friends look down
on Calpurnia as a servant and are shocked to hear Atticus speak
freely in her presence. At the same time, some members of Calpurnia's
black church are very critical of her being on such friendly terms
with her white employer. Calpurnia lives a divided life. You learn,
for example, that she learned to read and write from old law books.
In the Finchs' house she speaks the very correct English of an educated
person; at church, however, she converses in her friends' dialect
so they will not feel she is trying to act superior to them.
Lee treats Calpurnia as admirable because she has
made the best of her opportunities and has not allowed herself to
become bitter. Calpurnia has a sense of self-worth that is not affected
by the opinions of people around her. This is a way in which she