To Kill a Mockingbird

How does the tea party show the hypocrisy of the society?

After Tom Robinson's trial, the ladies have a tea party and Miss Merryweather moans about Atticus and about her servant. How does she show her hypocrisy here?

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The women discuss the plight of the Mruna people, a non-Christian group in Africa who are said to live in squalor and are being converted thanks to the efforts of a missionary named J. Grimes Everett. Scout doesn't enjoy being around women but does her best to take part. The discussion moves toward the topic of Tom's wife, Helen. Apparently the black cooks and field hands in town were discontented during the week after the trial. One of the ladies comments on how much she dislikes a, "sulky darky," and says that when her black female servant was slow to perform her duties following the trial, she reminded her that Jesus never complained. Another lady says that no amount of education will ever make "Christians" out of black people, and that, "there's no lady safe in her bed these nights." Miss Maudie tersely shows her differing opinion on this topic. Aunt Alexandra magically smoothes everything over. Another lady says that Northerners are hypocrites who claim to give blacks equal standing but actually don't mix socially with them, whereas in the South people are very up-front about their lack of desire to share the same lifestyle.

Just as Chapter 12 gives insight into black society in Maycomb,Chapter 24 gives insight into white women's society. Scout's experience with the Missionary Society women is somewhat mixed. She observes the hypocrisy with which the women try to do good for a remote culture like the Mrunas, but neglect the needs and sufferings of the black community in their own town. Particularly disconcerting is the way the women discriminate freely against the blacks, complaining about "sulky darkies" and making ridiculous insinuations that black men, spurred on by the trial, will start coming into their beds. The women's provincialism comes out when they speak of the Mruna people - it is evident that they have no understanding of how another way of worship could be just as spiritually meaningful as the religion they have always known. They also refuse to believe that the blacks of Maycomb are Christians, although as shown in Chapter 12, they are clearly worshipping the same God. Miss Maudie is the only woman who seems to show any appreciation for conscience, but when she speaks up, Aunt Alexandra is required by civil code to move the conversation pleasant again. Thus, the ladies never seem to discuss anything meaningful.