Last Updated 10 Mar 2020

Masculine versus Feminine in To Kill a Mockingbird

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In novels, masculine against feminine has been a popular writing technique throughout many writing achievements. Writers have displayed the masculine side as well as the feminine to express the setting of the story in which they are trying to write. Female writers have been suggested to have a difficult time in the interpretation of male characters within their writing. As Peter Shwenger states, “To suggest a similar assessment of writing by men is to remind us that the rich variety of writing alone” (621).

However, in the book To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee is able to express the underling roles of masculinity and femininity within the story using Atticus Finch and Calpurnia. Atticus Finch is the ideal father and a well esteemed lawyer. Becoming widowed when his children, Scout and Jem, were very young; he is still able work and provide a stable environment to raise his kids. Lee illustrates Atticus as the intelligent male role model he is intended to be He treats his kids the same way he treats adults.

He does not talk down to them; and when discussing Scout going to school he tells her, “I’m afraid our activities would be received with considerable disapprobation by the more learned authorities” (Lee 35). Scout is used to him talking to them that way but still asks him what he means. Atticus allows his children to learn from him which in turn allows them to appreciate him more. He only wants them to do right and holds them to the same principles that he goes by.

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When he believes that Jem stabbed Bob Ewell, instead of trying to get Jem out of trouble he tells Sherriff Heck Tate, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart, but I don't want my boy starting out with something like this over his head. Best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open. Let the county come and bring sandwiches. I don't want him growing up with a whisper about him, I don't want anybody saying, 'Jem Finch... his daddy paid a mint to get him out of that. ' Sooner we get this over with the better” (314).

Atticus is balancing his duties as a father and priorities as a lawyer. He wants what is best for his son and other lawyers in his same position might have done everything in their power to prevent him from getting in trouble. Atticus, however, sees what has been done and is taking the proper action as a lawyer and a father. In the book, the reader sees Atticus as the hero, as a man willing to defend something he knows he is going to lose. All of the community respects him, and they do not lose respect when he takes the case of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman.

He goes against the community and everything they have ever known when he represents Robinson in court. During the proceedings, he keeps his composure and does not put on a theatrical show for the town. Marie A. Failinger discusses Atticus’ demeanor during the trial, “A man who simply stood as witness. Just saying, simply, as he stood, that the case was about the community itself and its prejudice toward the Negro, and about whether the verdict was to be a moment set within or set apart from that reality” (305).

This shows the type of man Atticus is. He does not let a high profile case get in the way of doing what is right. He wants the townspeople to see what is right too. He knows how to do his job and show what kind of man he is without trying to show it. Lee is able to articulate his masculinity by describing his temperament rather than explaining his characteristics. Although Atticus is by himself in court, he receives help from Calpurnia to bring up Scout and Jem. Calpurnia is a black woman who works for Atticus.

She is more a part of the family than anything else. She has been the mother figure in the lives of Scout and Jem since Scout could remember. She is shown throughout the book in the white world of Alabama and Lee only gives the audience a small taste of what she is like in her own community. When Atticus is away she is there for the kids. She is tough on the rules, but is also nurturing. When Scout comes home from her first day of school, Calpurnia she kisses her. Scout is confused by it, but she just missed her being home during the day.

When Calpurnia takes them to church she gives them a dime and when Jem insists on using his she says, “"I don't want anybody sayin' I don't look after my children" (Lee 134). She has always viewed them as her own. She shows them the caring side and her teachings of moral values runs parallel with Atticus’. She was also able to teach Scout how to write and because she is a black woman in the 1930s who is literate she never acts better than anyone else. Scout invites Walter Cunningham over for dinner and when she reticules him for the way he is eating Calpurnia scowls Scout to show her the type of lady should want to be.

She tells Scout, “Hush your mouth! Don't matter who they are, anybody sets foot in this house's yo' comp'ny, and don't you let me catch you remarkin' on their ways like you was so high and mighty! Yo' folks might be better'n the Cunninghams but it don't count for nothin' the way you're disgracin' 'em – if you can't act fit to eat at the table you can just set here and eat in the kitchen! ” (27). This is where the audience first sees Calpurnia take charge of a situation. She sees something she does not like and steps forward to address it.

Calpurnia knows how to set her foot down with her surrogate family. It is her family and she knows how to be a woman about it. She knows she could have it a lot worse and is grateful that she works for someone like Atticus Finch. In the 1930s, African-American women workers were not always treated the same way as Calpurnia was. She is one of the few that is able to read and write.

Although wages are never discussed in the book, according to Annie Barnes, “African-Americans' mistresses during the Depression paid as little as $5. 0 weekly for full- time laborers to wash windows and clothes, iron (as many as twenty-one shirts a shift), and wax floors” (30). Lee never shows Calpurnia participating in any of these things. The only thing she does, domestic wise, in the book is cook. The reader forgets that she is hired by the Finches’ and only witnesses her as the female role model in the children’s lives. Her femininity remains during the reading because she maintains the household and instills values in the children which they may not have learned from only their father.

There are many characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. However, when the reader is thinking along the terms of masculinity, the most masculine character is Atticus Finch. He might not be able to play football like the other fathers in Scout’s class, but he represents what a true man should be. His characteristics and the way he handles himself makes him an ideal candidate for what being masculine is about. He might be a strong man, but he could not have done it without Calpurnia. She is the backbone of the family.

She allows Atticus to work and keeps the children from running wild. Her femininity shows through from the beginning to end. She is a strong woman and knows what is right. She will not let things get in her way of life and knows how to be a lady in all situations. Being feminine or masculine is not so much about being a man or a woman, but about how the person handles themselves when faced with certain issues. Calpurnia and Atticus know exactly how to behave in all atmospheres and that is why, in this book, they are the male and female role models.

Masculine versus Feminine in To Kill a Mockingbird essay

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