March 3 2017

I felt the starched walls of a pink penitentiary closing in on me….

After you have read chapters 12-14 of To Kill a Mockingbird, please respond on our blog:

  • What passage or passages strike you as interesting or singular and why?
  • What questions do you want to discuss with the class?
  • Why do you think these questions may generate interesting discussion?
  • Remember, a good discussion question does not have a single answer.  Good questions lead to interesting conversations.

Also remember to:

  • Annotate!  Annotate!  Annotate!  Use post-it notes to mark important passages and to write two or three discussion questions to direct our discussion tomorrow.  Remember!  Everyone must participate.
Mockingbird blog #5

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Posted March 3, 2017 by equinson in category To Kill a Mockingbird

30 thoughts on “I felt the starched walls of a pink penitentiary closing in on me….

  1. charlottes

    In this weekend’s reading of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a small passage at the beginning of chapter 12 struck me as very interesting. The passage states, “After one altercation when Jem hollered, ‘It’s time you started bein’ a girl and acting right!’ i burst into tears and fled to Calpurnia.” (page 153) This may not seem very important to most, but this small section was very interesting to me. When I read it, i wondered why she didn’t run to her father. She decided to run to Calpurnia instead. I think this may be because Calpurnia is the only mother figure Scout has ever really known. She knows if someone hurts her, Calpurnia will take care of her and love her. Even though Calpurnia is just the cook, she is a real part of the family.. She even takes Jem and Scout to her own colored church when Atticus is out of town. She treats Jem and Scout like her children. Like we mentioned in class a few days ago, as much as Atticus takes care of his kids, Calpurnia is raising them. This is perhaps why Scout ran to Calpurnia.

  2. sofiad1

    In this weekends chapters of To Kill A Mocking Bird, a few scenes stood out to me. One scene that was prominent was when Calpurnia was talking to Scout and she was confused on why no one would hire Tom Robinson’s wife because of what Bob Ewell claimed Tom Robinson did. She was confused because, given the past of Bob Ewell, why should anyone believe what he has to say? She didn’t understand that the community that Tom Robinson lived in did not see the world the same way she did. Another thing that stood out to me was when Dill ran away to the Finches house. He came up with a very elaborate lie about how his stepdad chained him up and the only person being nice to him was a farmer nearby who relieved him of his shackles and yatta yatta yatta. He then confessed to Scout later that that was all a lie, and that the real reason he ran away was that no one was paying attention to and that his mom and her husband just wanted alone time. Dill felt left out and discarded, so he ran off.

  3. caias1

    Something in chapter 14 this weekend that caught my attention was when Dill ran away. Scout first accidentally steps on him, and he shows himself to Scout and Jem. Atticus allows him to stay the night, and Dill explains why he ran away. He first tells an extremely intricate lie, where his new step-father hated him and chained him up in the basement. He survived on raw peas given to him by a farmer, and escaped to join an animal show. Later on, he explains how he really just took a bus most of the way and then walked the rest, because his parents were not interested in him; they just wanted time alone. As I read this, I questioned why he felt the need to make up such an elaborate lie. Why could he not just tell Scout and Jem the truth, that he felt like a third wheel? Why tell them an abusive story that was not true? Maybe he was embarrassed about the real reason for running away, but that still does not mean he should tell the kind of story that he did.

  4. ilyssal

    I was really interested in the scene where Dill emerged from underneath the bed. It was very funny and it made me laugh really hard. Jem and Scout asked Atticus what snakes looked and felt like because they were almost positive it was a snake hiding under their bed. To the surprise of the readers and the entire Finch family, Dill crawled out from the bed, covered in dirt from traveling to Maycomb after running away. When questioned about his reason to escape his home, Dill invents a complicated lie to tell Atticus. He is approved to spend the night with Scout and Jem and Atticus tells Dill to wash up, eat, and get some rest. Dill had hardly eaten since his departure and all the money he had was spent on a train ticket to Maycomb.

  5. faithw

    “Somewhere, I had received the impression that Fine Folks were people who did the best they could with the sense they had, but Aunt Alexandra was of the opinion, obliquely expressed, that the longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was” (p.173)

    While reading this quote, I thought of the old saying, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” This metaphor means that one should not evaluate a person’s based merely on their physical appearance. However, Aunt Alexandria bases her opinion of what makes somebody a “fine folk”on external characteristics including clothes, income, family history, and manners. This is evidenced when she consistently tries to transform Scout into a well-mannered lady like herself.

    On the other hand, Scout bases her judgment of people on their actions and behavior. It was ironic how the young child had a much more mature and sophisticated opinion when judging the character of individuals.

    1. christophert3

      I agree, it is weird how some of the kids act more mature and wise than the adults(except for Atticus for the most part).

  6. Toa Neil

    I noticed that in chapter 12 when the women is angry at Calpernia because she brought Jem and Scout to a black church. I thin this is interesting because it might change their views because they were always on the other side. Also I noticed in chapter 14 Scout thinks of a dress as prison.

  7. francescaa

    After reading this weekend’s portion of To Kill A Mockingbird, I took particular interest in Calpurnia’s life outside of the Finch household. In chapter 12 Calpurnia took Scout and Jem to her church. ONe of the first thing Scout noticed when Calpurnia was greeting the people from the church was the way she spoke. She spoke with incorrect grammar, something she never did at the Finch house. Scout later asked her why she did this and Calpurnia responded, “… In the second place, folks don’t like to have somebody around knowin’ more than they do. It aggravates ‘em.” (p.166). This statement completely blew me away. It shows how wise Calpurnia is and probably why Atticus so comfortable leaving her to raise his kids. Although she is African American, Calpurnia is pretty educated. She lives by very good morals and treats the kids as if they were her own. I also found Calpurnia’s church community extremely welcoming, with the exception of Lula. They welcomed Scout and Jem with open arms and made sure they felt at home. If there was one thing I took out of this chapter, it is that Calpurnia’s life has definitely shaped her into the woman she is.

  8. christophert3

    A few things in the chapters 12-14 caught my attention. First of all, I would like to ask, did anyone feel Reverend Sykes was being to harsh forcing the congregation to give money enough to add up to 10 dollars? I understand when he told that one man to give something since he hadn’t, but should he have forced those who had already given to give more? I also wonder why, like Scout, people take the word of the Ewells over Tom Robinson’s. Doesn’t everyone not like the Ewells for both their personality and their lack of hygiene? I guess maybe people also don’t like Negroes over the Ewells. But speaking of the Ewells, I also wondered whether Aunt Alexandra also understood what she had said meant. Aunt Alexandra had said, “the longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was.”(pg 173) Afterwards, Jem said a very smart and wise statement. He said, “‘That makes the Ewells fine folks, then'”(pg 173) And this is completely true. But then if you think about it, this could be the reason why everyone favors the Ewells’ word over Tom Robinson’s, a Negroe’s. I guess though it still has an effect, one’s power in this neighborhood is given by their family’s line or how long they have been present on this land.

  9. alexo

    What I noticed was that even though Atticus is a very good man, he easily bows down to others and follows their bidding, especially relatives. Despite disagreeing with Aunt Alexandra’s ideas and wishes, he carried them out at the expense of his children. For example, Aunt Alexandr a wanted the kids to start acting more like Finches than “common” people, and despite clearly not wanting to carry out her message, he gave it anyway, even though he did it in a very weak way.

    Something else I noticed was how furious Aunt Alexandra was when she found that Jem and Scout had gone to a black church with Calpurnia and that Scout was planning to go to Calpurnia’s house. Aunt Alexandra is a very “proper” person and seems to heavily disagree with Jem and Scout going to church with black folks, and immediately asks Atticus to kick Calpurnia out. Alexandra doesn’t seem to have much respect for anyone that isn’t an ancient white family, which I find very odd. I can’t really understand her basis for this, other else than the Finch’s themselves being an old family. Also going back to what I’ve said earlier, when Aunt Alexandra expresses her disapproval of going to First Purchase church and Scout says that she hadn’t asked her, Atticus is very strict about Scout apologizing to her, even though he probably knows that even if Scout said she was sorry she didn’t mean it.

  10. tarika1

    Something I was interested in these chapters was Scouts introduction yo the black community and how it relates to Calpurnia. Scout was always told not to say racial slurs by Calpurnia and Atticus but she never got told a very good answer to why. In these chapters, Scout truly sees the black community and understands it more. Calpurnia becomes a sort of “connection of two different worlds” to Scout’s all white neighborhood, and black community.

  11. arihantp1

    I was surprised by how Calpurnia has “two languages,” one for inside the house and one for outside. Calpurnia spoke using good grammar while she was in the house, but spoke bad grammar outside of the house. This shows how wise she truly is and how she doesn’t want to agitate any colored folk, but doesn’t want to show Atticus that she doesn’t have any manners. Calpurnia is essentially a bridge, with her Scout and Jem are allowed to visit the Negro church, and white people trust her, as is shown when they all listen to Calpurnia when she warns them about the mad dog. Calpurnia is both respected by white and colored people, which is surprising due to the racism going on in the setting in which the book takes place.

    1. avae1

      I also noticed how Calpurnia talks two different ways while in the presence of two different kinds of people. She uses her ability to her advantage and gains the respect of everyone.

  12. briannag3

    While reading chapters 12-14 I found Calpurnia taking Scout and Jem to her black church interesting. Scout really understood the other side of the community better after going and now knows why Atticus and Calpurnia don’t like her calling black people “niggers”. Also, their Aunt Alexandra was inexplicably angry when she discovered that Cal had taken Jem and Scout to the black church. She has a strong disliking for Calpurnia and tells Atticus that she is no longer needed and he should kick her out, which he refuses.

  13. avae1

    What caught my attention in this weekend’s reading was how different Calpurnia’s church was than Scout and Jem’s usual experience at church. Excluding Lula, the people of First Purchase were very welcoming and kind to Scout and Jem, and were glad to see them join Calpurnia. This was interesting, because surely members of a white church would not be as welcoming if one of them were to join for a day. This could also be due to the fact that Atticus is defending one of the members of First Purchase, Tom Robinson.”‘We were ‘specially glad to have you all here,’ said Reverend Sykes. ‘This church has no better friend than your daddy.'”(p.163)

    Scout also found it odd that there were no hymn-books present, and questioned how they would do without them. What she later realized was that there was a leader and then everyone else followed in response. The reason for the lack of books was because most of the people singing could not read. I found this intriguing because although these people were not slaves, the majority never went to school, including Calpurnia. This proves that even though in this novel it is 1933, there is still a wide educational gap between whites and African Americans. However, the members of First Purchase are not bound by their inability to read and worship perfectly fine without it.

  14. maddy

    In Chapter Thirteen of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, one may regard Aunt Alexandra to be exceedingly prideful of the Finches. Page one hundred and seventy-two states, “She never let a chance escape her to point out the shortcomings of other tribal groups to the greater glory of our own…” This quotation is referring to Aunt Alexandra consistently remarking upon the poor attributes “hereditary” in other families, such as meanness and drinking, yet not conversing of her own family in such a way. When inquired of the Finches’ frequent incestual relations, and confronted with her imprisoned relative Joshua, Aunt Alexandra did not engage in these subjects furthermore. It is evident that Aunt Alexandra’s great pride in her family makes it difficult for her to acknowledge that the Finches have their flaws as well as any other family in Maycomb County. This difficulty induces me to question Aunt Alexandra’s true motives for deciding to stay with Scout and her family. Would she have done so had it not been for her superiority complex? With the highly controversial Tom Robinson trial, in addition to Scout and Jem growing older, it is possible that Aunt Alexandra’s relocation is purposed to prevent disrepute to the family name, or an idea along that premise. It would be explanatory as to why Aunt Alexandra opposes Calpurnia’s influence and role in raising Scout and Jem.

  15. margauxc

    The character of Charles Baker Harris is certainly an interesting topic of discussion after the events of chapter fourteen. More specifically, an interesting idea concerning the character of Dill is the possibility of him symbolizing the good aspects of Scout and Jem’s childhood. After further research into the origins of Dill’s nickname, I was able to find out that dill is an annual herb used for flavour and medicine, which happens to be cultivated during warm summers with high sunshine levels. If, hypothetically speaking, Dill were to symbolize childhood, then one could argue that Scout’s childhood is primarily being developed/”cultivated” during the summers she spends with Dill. According to Scout, “summer was Dill by the fishpool smoking string, Dill’s eyes alive with complicated plans to make Boo Radley emerge…” (p. 154) Without Dill’s presence, whether it be during summer or during the school year, Scout’s childhood/innocence is slowly being compromised as the story progresses. Yet, with Dill, Scout starts to behave in a more childish manner, believing impractical stories of foggy islands. If, hypothetically, Dill were to represent childhood innocence, it would definitely flow with certain plot details. When Jem informs Atticus of Dill’s presence and “betrays” Scout and Dill, Jem is choosing between two opposing alternatives: to do something reckless that he would’ve done when he was younger or to do something that appeals to reason and maturity. Or, in other words- Jem is forced to metaphorically choose between his childhood and adulthood.

  16. marinas1

    One entity that has sparked my attention time and time again in “To Kill A Mockingbird” is how Atticus has a specific name for each person, and how Jem’s is “son”. Why is this the case? There are far more affectionate names to be used for one’s only son. Now, this may be due to the fact that Atticus treats his children with “courteous detachment”. However, he calls Scout “Scout”, not daughter. Although this may be true, I believe that Atticus is very proud of his son’s (partial) level-headedness. He sees Jem as more of a man and less of a boy. This idea has become increasingly apparent as the novel has continued. Jem is not only seen as more grown-up, but he has also started acting that way as well. For example, Calpurnia calls Jem “Mister Jem”, as if Jem already owns his own property or is the head of a patriarchal household. Calpurnia declares “‘I just can’t help it if Mister Jem’s growin’ up. He’s gonna want to be off to himself a lot now, doin’ whatever boys do…'” (pp.153-154) Although Jem is only twelve years of age, he is still seen as if he is “growin’ up”, an idea I personally rejected a chapter or two ahead of this section, when Jem threatens Scout by saying “‘Now I mean it, Scout, you antagonize Aunty and I’ll-‘ll spank you.'” (p.184) The mere fact that Jem believes he has the authority and right to “spank” his own sister is preposterous. He is only twelve, and has no right to wield that kind of dominance over his own little sister. After this threat, Scout hits Jem, and instead of being the “bigger man”, Jem does not walk away, and begins to fight Scout. From this, we can see that Jem still and a lot of growing up to do. Jem is in no way a man, regardless of how Atticus sees him or what Atticus calls him.

  17. willowm

    In this weekend’s reading, we learn a little bit more about what Calpurnia means to Jem and Scout. Early on in the reading, Jem offends Scout. He tells her “It’s time you started bein’ a girl and acting right!”(page 153) Scout ran to Calpurnia. She reassured Scout and made her feel better, while explaining the situation.

    1. willowm

      She also made sure that they could go to church while their father was away, even though it caused her a little bit of trouble. Then, when Scout became interested in Calpurnia’s two different lives, she told Scout that she could come by her house any time she wasn’t already with her at Scout’s house. Once their Aunt comes to live with them, Clapurnia’s presence was questioned. Atticus shuts the conversation down saying “Calpurnia’s not leaving this house… She’s a faithful member of this family and you’ll simply have to accept things the way they are.”(page 182) He continues to say “Besides, I don’t think the children’ve suffered one bit from her having brought them up. If anything, she’s been harder on them in some ways than a mother would have been…”(page 183) It seems Calpurnia is the only constant in Jem and Scout’s lives, and it is clear Atticus understands this. I hope that Atticus and his kids can rub off on Aunt Alexandra so that she doesn’t just see Calpurnia as an African American, but as the mother figure she is to the kids

  18. cameronl3

    What I found most interesting was in chapter 14, when Scout fins something very absurd under her bed… Dill. After hearing that Dill would be unable to attend her and Jem in Maycomb, and that he will be staying in his town, Scout is very dissapointed. After Scout and Jem get into a scuffle and are sent back to their rooms by Atticus, that is when Scout makes the discovery of Dill under her bed. He begins to explain that he did not receive enough attention from his parents, so he ran away from his household. After telling Atticus the news, he instructs the kids to help comfort Dill again. In addition, he hoes next door to Dill’s aunt, Miss Rachel, to ask about his whereabouts. From fourteen miles out, Fill travelled by himself from Meridian which must have been very frightening to him. Also, he must have been very upset, not only from leaving his town by himself, but due to the fact he received little to no attention from his parents, which are supposed to be the most comforting of all people.

  19. adam

    There were many interesting events in this weekends reading. One that was intertesting to me was how Lula wouldn’t accept African Americans into the church. This was okay with many there, but Lula was very angry with Calpurnia. I was not very surprised by this and see how it applies to modern day. Many people are okay with everybody together no matter what race, skin color or gender, and some, unfortunately, are not. This makes me disappointed and I am curious to why Harper Lee inserted this scene and the significance it has on the future novel.

  20. Esha Pandya

    In chapters 12-14, I was interested in a brief section that displayed racism against the First Purchase. The church was sacred for African Americans, but not for white men. “Negroes worshipped in it on Sundays and white men gambled in it on weekdays.” (page 157) The activities occurring in the church show different levels of respect. The African Americans see the First Purchase as a holy place since slaves used their money to buy it. They respected the church, and continued the tradition of linin’ for several years. White men, having a strong dislike against African Americans, overlooked the church for its holy purpose, and instead, regarded it as nothing more than a place for losing money. They had no respect for the church, and no respect for African Americans. Unlike them, African Americans respect churches no matter which race it belongs to. But since segregation was still around, white men made themselves more important, and they were able to do whatever they wished to. The First Purchase was both disrespected and holy in the eyes of two different groups of people.

    An idea that occurred again after being mentioned in class was of Maycomb being isolated from the rest of the world. “…bread lines in the city grew longer, people in the country grew poorer. But these were events remote from the world of Jem and me.” (page 155) The world of Jem and Scout is Maycomb; they grew up there, and didn’t know much about the outside world besides information from newspapers and from Dill’s stories. Although Maycomb was affected by the depression, the situation was not as desperate as in the city, where the larger population made it seem worse. As it became worse in the city, life in Maycomb stayed the same for Jem and Scout. They played, went to school, and visited relatives just as they had before. Nothing much had changed in Maycomb, since nobody came or left the town. The small town was unaffected by the problems in the city, and continued how life went about in it.

  21. Kathrynr

    I was interested in the fact that when we met the people in Calpurnias church group very few of them could read. This wasa not unexpexted for the time but I found it as an interesting detail. I also found it tied in with when Scout was not supposed to be able to read.

  22. laurena2

    In this weekends reading, I found it interesting how Calpurnia talked differently when addressing Lula. It seemed as if she (grammar wise) was equal to Lula when talking to her, however she was very proper when talking in the Finches’ house. The only time Jem and Scout ever heard her use improper grammar was when she was angry, and rushing her words. Was Calpurnia aware of her speech or did she accidentally speak like Lula?

  23. alekhya

    In chapters 12-14 Harper lee chose to develop calpurnia’s life and character. To Scout, Calpurnia was their black house maid who cooked food and loved yellling at Scout. But after going to church with her scout realizes that Calpurnia has her own private life with her own family to take care of. After this other side of Calprnia’s life has been revealed Scout begins to mediate towards her when she feels left out by Jem or tortured by Aunt Alexandra

  24. ivanl

    Something that I found very interesting in the reading was the church service. One thing I found rather odd during the church service was that the blacks and white were together. At the time period of the book, it was very uncommon to see whites and blacks together as they had their own separate establishments. Aside from Lula in the beginning, the rest of the blacks seemed alright with the Finches. Another thing in the church service that I found rather interesting is the collection of money for Helen. The reverend counts the collection money and announces it is not enough money for them to make it through the week. Rather than just requesting if anyone would be kind enough to add a little bit more, the doors are locked and people are not allowed to leave until the sum of the collection money amounts to 10 dollars. Collection money should just be an act of generosity, I don’t think it should be mandatory, especially if you don’t have much for yourself.

  25. alekhya

    (continued) Calpurnia is once again addressed in chapter 14 when Aunt Alexandra feels that Calpurnia is a bad influence on Scout.”Atticus, it’s all right to be soft hearted, you’re an easy man, but you have a daughter to think of. A daughter who’s growing up.”(182) Atticus immediately turns it down without letting his sister attempt to support her argument. “Sh tried to bring them up according to her lights and Cal’s lights are pretty good- and another thing, the children love her.” (183) It was actually very amusing when Atticus turned her down like that, not even giving her a chance to speak.

  26. Rebecca F

    In the chapter’s reading, I was irritated by how Aunt Alexandra wanted Scout to be more ladylike. Scout clearly doesn’t care for what Aunty thinks a lady should be, yet Aunty continues to try to change Scout, often reprimanding her for acting unladylike. I understand that Aunty wants Scout to act like a lady, but there is more than one way to be a lady.
    It was also aggravating when Aunty tries to imprint upon Jem and Scout the idea that Finches are high people, above most others. I found it amusing when Aunty tried to teach them about great cousin Joshua. Jem immediately fires back saying that he though cousin Joshua ended up in jail for trying to shoot the president and cost the family five hundred dollars. Jem and Scout’s sassy responses to Aunty’s attempt at reform bring a sense of humor and joy to the book, making me want to read more.


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