Characters: Calpurnia


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 resembles Atticus.

Describe the relationship between Scout and Calpurnia.
How does Calpurnia reconcile the two worlds in which she moves?