To Kill a Mockingbird – Chapter 24

The Mrunas are a tribe of people that the missionary circle is trying to civilize and Christianize, under the leadership of a Methodist minister named J. Grimes Everett. Although it is not directly stated where the Mrunas live, several clues indicate that they are an African tribe. For example, Mrs. Merriweather describes them as “living in that jungle” and states, “Not a white person’ll go near ’em but that saintly J. Grimes Everett.” Aunt Alexandra is entertaining her missionary circle. Who are the Mrunas, and why is the missionary circle interested in them?
Mrs. Merriweather is talking about Maycomb’s black community and the after-effects of Tom Robinson’s trial. She is stating that once the black community realizes that the white population has forgiven them, then the disruption caused by the trial will cease to exist, and everything will return to normal. Her statement is obviously ironic. In her ignorance, which is shared by many of the whites in Maycomb, she believes that the black community is in need of forgiveness from the white community for the trial and its aftermath. Just the opposite is true. The trial and conviction of Tom Robinson was a travesty of justice, brought about by the racism of the town’s white population. Clearly, if one group of people is in need of forgiveness for committing a moral wrong against the other, it is Maycomb’s white community that must seek forgiveness from the black community. Mrs. Merriweather says, “If we just let them know we forgive’ em, that we’ve forgotten it, then this whole thing’ll blow over.” Who and what is she talking about? What is ironic about her statement?
The ladies are greatly concerned for poor black people halfway around the world, but they have no sympathy or consideration for the black people in their own town. For example, as Mrs. Merriweather speaks of the Mrunas, her eyes fill with tears in consideration of “the oppressed.” At the same time, she refuses to acknowledge the oppression that the blacks in Maycomb suffer at the hands of the whites. . The theme of hypocrisy plays a major role in this chapter. What is hypocritical aboutthe concern the ladies of the missionary circle have for the Mrunas?
She is making a veiled criticism of Atticus and his defense of Tom Robinson. She implies that Atticus thought that he was doing the right thing by defending Tom, but all he really did was “stir up” the black population and cause further trouble for white people like her. When Mrs. Merriweather claims, “there are some good but misguided people in this town,” what is she talking about, and to whom is she referring?
Miss Maudie coldly says to Mrs. Merriweather, “His food doesn’t stick going down, does it?”She is referring to the fact that Mrs. Merriweather is happily eating food provided by theFinch household, while simultaneously criticizing Atticus, the head of that very household. Miss Maudie’s remark pointedly reveals Mrs. Merriweather’s hypocrisy, as well as that of the other ladies at the gathering who share the woman’s ignorant sentiments. Aunt Alexandra silently thanks Miss Maudie by giving her what Scout describes as “a look of pure gratitude.” What does Miss Maudie say that silences Mrs. Merriweather? How does Aunt Alexandra show her appreciation to Miss Maudie for her defense of Atticus?Miss Maudie coldly says to Mrs. Merriweather, “His food doesn’t stick going down, does it?”
Scout’s experience among the gossipy, two-faced ladies of the missionary circle is confusing and a little upsetting. She is mystified by the world of women and feels much more at home in her father’s world. As she explains, “People like Mr. Heck Tate did not trap you with innocent questions to make fun of you; even Jem was not highly critical unless you said something stupid…There was something about [men], no matter how much they cussed and drank and gambled and chewed…there was something about them that I instinctively liked…they weren’t—” As Scout is about to say what men are not, Mrs. Merriweather unwittingly and ironically interrupts her thoughts with the perfect word: “Hypocrites…born hypocrites….” Why does Scout prefer the company of men as opposed to that of women?
Calpurnia said that Tom had given up all hope of ever becoming free again. According to her, “the last thing he said to Atticus before they took him down to the prison camp was, ‘Goodbye, Mr. Finch, there ain’t nothin’ you can do now, so there ain’t no use tryin’.” What did Calpurnia say to Miss Rachel’s cook about Tom’s despair? According to her, what was the last thing Tom had told Atticus before being taken to the prison camp?
He says that Tom is dead: “They shot him…He was running. It was during their exercise period. They said he just broke into a blind raving charge at the fence and started climbing over. Right in front of them—.” According to Atticus, the guards had yelled for Tom to stop and had fired a few warning shots into the air. When Tom did not stop, they shot to kill: “They said if he’d had two good arms he’d have made it, he was moving that fast. Seventeen bullet holes in him.” When Atticus arrives home, what terrible news does he bring about Tom Robinson?Summarize what happened to Tom, according to Atticus.
Answers may vary. Example: Tom may have been trying to escape because he believed he had no chance of attaining freedom any other way. However, it also could be argued that Tom ran for the fence knowing that he would not make it. His hopelessness and despair may have been so great that he wished to die. This would explain why he did not stop even when the guards warned that they would shoot. Why do you think Tom ran for the fence? Why did he keep running even when the guards warned that they would shoot?
Alexandra is referring to the people of Maycomb. She means that Atticus, by trying to dowhat is morally right, is doing the job that no one else is brave enough to do: “They’reperfectly willing to let him do what they’re too afraid to do themselves—it might lose ’em a nickel. They’re perfectly willing to let him wreck his health doing what they’re afraid to do…” She sees that Atticus is acting as the lone moral upholder for the entire town, and the burden is wearing him down. To make matters worse, instead of expressing gratitude for his service to them, the townspeople criticize him behind his back. Alexandra asks Miss Maudie, “[W]hat else do they want from him, Maudie, what else?” What does she mean by this question? To whom is she referring with the word they?
Miss Maudie tries to make Alexandra view the situation in a different light: “Have you ever thought of it this way, Alexandra? Whether Maycomb knows it or not, we’re paying the highest tribute we can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It’s that simple.” When Alexandra asks her who she means by “we,” Miss Maudie replies, “The handful of people in this town who say that fair play is not marked White Only; the handful of people who say a fair trial is for everybody, not just us; thehandful of people with enough humility to think, when they look at a Negro, there but for the Lord’s kindness am I…The handful of people in this town with background, that’s who they are.”The repetition of the phrase “the handful of people” throughout Miss Maudie’s speech is an example of anaphora. The use of anaphora emphasizes Miss Maudie’s main point: Although many of Maycomb’s citizens are racist, there is a small but powerful group of people who are not. These people are Atticus’s supporters, and they look upon him with deep respect and gratitude for the job he does. How does Miss Maudie reply to Alexandra’s question? What literary device does the author use in the second part of Miss Maudie’s response?

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