To Kill a Mockingbird

what is the purpose of chapter 24

what is the reason of having this chapter

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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.

Throughout the book, women are often described in relation to sweet things: for instance in Chapter 1 they are described as, "soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum," Miss Caroline is described as looking like a peppermint drop, and the ladies gathered at the Finch household are said to smell heavenly and make many remarks about Aunt Alexandra's dainty tarts. Even Miss Maudie is best known, outside of her gardening, for her cake, and Aunt Alexandra is famous for her Christmas dinner. Women seem, in these descriptions, somewhat superficial and transient. The delicate desserts they seem to epitomize are hardly fortifying or necessary--they mainly look pretty and behave pleasantly--but lack real substance. Scout, who has a very strong sense of character, does not fit this comparison, and fights against becoming a part of this community.

When meaningful news does arrive, the women are spared from hearing it, as Atticus takes Aunt Alexandra into the kitchen. The news of Tom's attempt at escape, and his loss of hope after his sentence, occurs in the middle of the women's meeting about doing good in the world, which points to their hypocrisy and wasted "moral" zeal, and gives context to Tom's feelings of hopelessness. However, Scout does note that there is an element of challenge involved in being a lady. She understands this when watching Aunt Alexandra and Miss Maudie put themselves together after hearing the tragic news and rejoining the group. The ability to maintain an appearance of tact and civility above all other events strikes Scout as an appealing skill.