Answer to Questions for chapters 12 -14:                                                                                BACK to Homepage

Chapter 12

1. Why is Scout so surprised when Jem says, “It’s time you started bein’ a girl and acting

right…?” (p. 115) What is Lee’s purpose for having Jem say this?

Scout has played with Jem as if she is a boy, and Jem has always accepted her as an equal
in this respect. So for him to say that the right way for her to act is to be a girl is the same
as telling her he does not like her as she is anymore. Lee shows that Jem is becoming more
aware of society’s expectations of acceptable behavior for a girl.

2. What literary devices is Lee using when she has Scout describe Atticus’ trip to

Montgomery by saying, “…The Governor was eager to scrape a few barnacles off the

ship of state; there were sit-down strikes in Birmingham; bread lines in the cities grew

longer, people in the country grew poorer…?” (p. 118) Why are these statements

significant?

Scraping “a few barnacles off the ship of state” is figurative language in the form of an idiom.
Scraping barnacles is a reference to the shellfish that adhere themselves to the underside
of boats; to keep a boat running through water smoothly, barnacles must be scraped off the
bottom of the boat. The “ship of state” is the state government, and by scraping the barnacles
off this ship, the governor wants to improve the government’s operations by simplifying the
tax codes. The other literary device is the allusion to the sit-down strikes and bread lines that were
prevalent during the Depression. A sit-down strike is a strike in which the workers literally
sit down in their workplace and refuse to work until their demands are met. Bread lines are a
reference to the long lines that occurred outside places that gave away food to people who did
not have any. These statements are significant because this is the first time that Scout has made any
reference to events happening outside of Maycomb. In fact, she even says that these events are
remote from her and Jem’s world, implying that they are of little significance to her. It shows
how insular her world is and how naïve she is about the effects of the Depression.

3. Why is Calpurnia so concerned about the children’s appearance when she takes them to

First Purchase?

Calpurnia wants to make sure that the children are perfectly dressed so that none of her
friends can say anything negative about her or the children. She does not want the church
members to accuse her of doing anything less than the best for Jem and Scout.
 

4. Why does Lee introduce the character of Lula into the story?

Lee introduces Lula to illustrate that racism is an individual attitude that may or may not be
upheld by a community. Lula wants to keep First Purchase segregated and not welcome the
white children into the church. However, Lula is in the minority in this congregation. In the
white community, there are also people who do not welcome African-Americans into their
churches, but this attitude is supported by almost everyone except people like Atticus.

5. Why does Calpurnia speak differently at First Purchase than she does with the children

in their home? What is Lee illustrating with this switch and Scout’s questions about it?

Calpurnia speaks what Scout calls “black-talk” (p. 125) with the people at First Purchase;
however, when she is speaking with the children in their home, she speaks proper English. By
having Calpurnia switch back and forth between slang and proper English, Lee is illustrating
Calpurnia’s role as one of the few African-Americans in Maycomb who can successfully move
between the white community and the African-American community and be accepted by
both. By having Scout use the phrases “negro-talk” and “…talk that way when you know
better…” (p. 126), Lee is illustrating the unconscious bias of most white Southerners at that
time—Scout does not even realize that her assumption that African-Americans speak like
they do because they do not know any better shows her prejudice. She does realize, however,
that Calpurnia leads a divided life, showing her intelligence and education when she is with
the children, but not making herself look better than the other members of her community
when she is at home.

6. How does Lee use the children’s experience at First Purchase to show the similarities

and differences between the African-American and the white religious communities?

Lee begins the children’s experience with Calpurnia saying to Lula that both the First
Purchase and the white congregation worship the same God. Scout sees this is true, because
Reverend Sykes’ announcements, intentions, and sermon are similar to the ones she hears
in her own church. However, the disparity in the affluence of the two communities is very
apparent in the church. First Purchase does not have an interior ceiling, is not painted,
has pine planks for pews, and uses kerosene lamps. They also do not have hymnbooks,
which Lee uses as a further example of the African-American’s hardships. According to
Calpurnia, having hymnbooks would do no good, because the majority of the members of the
congregation cannot read.
 

7. What is the signifi cance of Calpurnia’s description of learning to read? How does this

affect Scout?

This is yet another example of the discrimination against African-Americans at that time.

Calpurnia is one of only four people in her entire congregation that knows how to read. She

was fortunate to have a white woman teach her how to read, because there were no schools

for African-Americans when she was growing up. She also describes how she taught her

son, Zeebo how to read, because there still were no schools he could attend when he was

a child. Hearing this description makes Scout wonder why she had never thought about

how Calpurnia learned to read and write. Through this dialogue, Lee shows that Scout is

beginning to question the status quo of Maycomb, wondering why no one has sought to

change this inequity.

Chapter 13

1. Why did Aunt Alexandra come to stay with Atticus, Jem, and Scout? What does her

arrival tell the reader and the people of Maycomb about her relationship with Atticus?

Aunt Alexandra tells Jem and Scout that she has come because they are at the age when
they can use a feminine influence, particularly Scout. By coming at this particular time,
she is publicly showing support for her brother’s decision to defend Tom Robinson. Although
she tells the family that Atticus is disgracing the family by defending an African-American
against rape charges, she will not admit this outside the family. In public, she supports her
family members regardless of what they have done or will do.

2. What does Atticus mean when he says, “I cannot stay here with you all day, and this

summer’s going to be a hot one?” (p. 128)

Although the temperature will be hot, as summer always is in Alabama, Atticus is referring
to the town’s reaction to the upcoming trial of Tom Robinson. Atticus does not want to leave
his children alone with Calpurnia in the weeks leading up to the trial, because he fears
that something may happen to them. Atticus cannot put Calpurnia in the position of having
to protect his children from attacks by white people, because as an African-American,
Calpurnia would be put on trial just like Tom Robinson.

3. How does Lee use humor to show that she does not approve of using family heritage as

a way to judge people? How is this significant to the character of Aunt Alexandra?

When Scout is describing Aunt Alexandra’s explanations of different family streaks, such
as the morbid streak in the Merriweather family, the giddiness streak in the Penfield family
women, and the various drinking streaks, gambling streaks, or mean streaks, Atticus is
the one who puts Aunt Alexandra in her place by referring to the Finch Incestuous Streak.
Aunt Alexandra does not realize that Atticus is teasing her; rather, she responds seriously
by saying that this is why they all have small hands and small feet. This conversation is
significant because it emphasizes just how serious Aunt Alexandra is about her pride in being
a Finch.

4. What type of literary device is the following quotation? What does Scout mean?

“Aunt Alexandra fitted into the world of Maycomb like a hand into a glove,

but never into the world of Jem and me.” (pp. 131 –132)

The phrase “…like a hand into a glove…” is a simile that Scout uses to say that Maycomb
society has accepted Aunt Alexandra very quickly and completely. However, she goes on to
point out that Aunt Alexandra and the two children do not get along very well.

5. Briefly describe the impact of Scout’s role as narrator as she describes Aunt Alexandra’s

explanation of cousin Lily Brook’s book about Joshua S. St. Clair.

Scout’s dislike of Aunt Alexandra is obvious to the reader. Scout makes Aunt Alexandra
seem like a ridiculous, stuck-up snob who wants to promote the gentility of the Finch family
without seeing the human flaws, such as the incident that Jem mentions about cousin Joshua.

6. Why did the children feel so isolated and upset when Atticus asked them to listen to

Aunt Alexandra’s explanations of the significance of being a Finch.

When Atticus says that he wants them to learn about the Finch family, the children are afraid
that Aunt Alexandra has somehow changed their father. This is the fi rst time Atticus has ever
implied that they are better than other people because of where they came from, and this is
completely foreign to them. They fear that they have lost the father they know, and that they
will be required to act differently in the future.

7. What does Scout mean when she says, “I know now what he was trying to do, but

Atticus was only a man. It takes a woman to do that kind of work.” (p. 134)

This is an example of Scout speaking from an adult’s perspective, looking back at an event in
her life that she did not understand at the time. She now understands that Atticus was trying
to teach his children respect and pride for family, even if he did not agree with how Aunt
Alexandra flaunted their family history.

Chapter 14

1. Describe how Atticus’ and Aunt Alexandra’s reactions to Scout and Jem visiting

Calpurnia’s church reflect their attitudes toward African-Americans.

Atticus is amused by the story and sees no harm in their visiting First Prospect. This shows
that he sees Calpurnia as an individual who loves his children and cares about their wellbeing.
Aunt Alexandra is horrified, denies Scout permission to visit Calpurnia, and uses this
story as justification for getting rid of Calpurnia because of her influence on the children as
they get older. This exemplifies Alexandra’s attitude that African-Americans are to be kept at
a distance, not to be trusted, and definitely beneath her socially.

2. What does Scout mean when she says, “I felt the starched walls of a pink penitentiary

closing in on me, and for the second time in my life I thought of running away.

Immediately.” (p. 136) How is this statement ironic?

Scout’s reference to the “pink penitentiary” means that she fears Aunt Alexandra will require
her to wear dresses all the time and only play with toys that are suitable for little girls. The
statement is ironic because she talks about running away, but at that point in the story, she
does not yet know that Dill has run away and is hiding under her bed.

3. Give two examples of Jem’s increasing maturity, and explain each example along with

Scout’s response.

First example: Without being specifically told, Jem knows that Atticus is under a lot of stress,
and he tells Scout that she should try not to cause him more stress by antagonizing Aunt
Alexandra. Scout responds as a typical child would and accuses Jem of ordering her around. She
denies Jem’s assertion that Atticus is under stress, because she does not see what Jem does.
Second example: As soon as Jem realizes that Dill has run away from home, he calls Atticus.
Both Scout and Dill see this as a betrayal of their childhood pact, but Jem understands the
situation from an adult’s perspective.

4. Why did Dill really run away? How does Lee use Dill’s explanation to create sympathy

for him?

His mother has remarried, and Dill feels that his step-father and mother do not want to be
bothered with him. Dill first makes up a ridiculous story about his adventures on the train,
and it is not until they are going to sleep, that Dill shares with Scout just how lonely and
unloved he feels. His most poignant statement is his assumption that the only reason Boo
Radley never ran away was that he had no place to go.

5. If Dill were the narrator, how might he respond to Aunt Alexandra’s attention? How

does his relationship with his mother and step-father affect his possible response to

Aunt Alexandra?

Dill has never had a parent that pays a lot of attention to him, so the reader can assume
that he would enjoy the attention Aunt Alexandra gives to Scout, even if she is correcting his
actions and speech.

6. What can the reader infer from Scout’s question about Boo Radley running away and

Dill’s response?

The reader can infer that Scout is beginning to understand that Boo’s relationship with his
family is not a good, loving relationship, because she is comparing Dill’s story about being
ignored by his mother and step-father with what she has heard about Boo’s relationship with
his parents. Based on Dill’s response, the reader can infer that Dill chose to run away because
he knows that he will be safe once he reaches the Finch’s house. Dill’s decision to come to their
house indicates that he understands the loving relationship between Atticus and his children.