In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout narrates her early life as a child. Motherless, the women in her life are quite significant to her in modelling her from a feminine point of view. In the beginning of the book, the three main women in her life are Calpurnia, the house maid, Miss Maudie, a friendly neighbour and Caroline Fisher, her teacher when she starts school.
All these women have one thing in common – they all influence her at this tender age. Miss Caroline seems to be viewed in a negative light by Scout; in contrast, Miss Maudie is described as “our [Jem and Scout’s] friend.” Calpurnia, being the closest to scout is described as having a “tyrannical presence” but is described with love and affection.
Caroline Fisher is the youngest of the three, being “no more than twenty-one.” In usual circumstances, it is the younger generation who enforce new ideas into society and who are more open minded.
This is not the case with Caroline Fisher. Although she comes up with a new teaching method, she follows it rigidly and makes everyone in her class work on the same level – which consequences with a clash with the intelligent Scout. As a result of being told off for being able to read and write, Scout starts to feel confused and is even told off for defending her father, telling her teacher that he didn’t teach her how to read.
Caroline fisher is quick tempered and instead of listening to Scout she whips her. Thus, it is hardly surprising that Scout comes to resent her teacher. Scout says she “would have” felt sorry for her, illustrating how she is being active in making sure she does not grow fond of her teacher.
Although not young like Fisher, Maudie Atkinson is a kind hearted and amicable with Scout. She is an open minded with her own opinions and thinks for herself, unlike Caroline Fisher, who sticks to what she has been taught with no exceptions. Atkinson, contrary to Fisher, is always nice to towards Scout and always listens to what she has to say, even after her house has been burnt down. Although in other affairs she is said to have an “acid tongue”, she is always pleasant around the children, making them cakes and earning the honour of Scout calling her “the best lady I know.”
Calpurnia, although described as having a “tyrannical presence”, is viewed with love, especially as Scout gets older. As the only woman of their household, Calpurnia can be argued to be the most important woman in her early life. As Scout doesn’t remember much about her mother, Calpurnia is all she has that is close to one. Calpurnia teaches her various lessons in life, like how not to offend your guests. Although Scout says Calpurnia is always “ordering me out the kitchen”, she does start missing the child when she goes to school and makes her “crackling bread”, her favourite food. What’s more, when Jem starts to object to playing with Scout, Calpurnia offers for her to stay in the kitchen for company. She is sensitive to Scout’s moods and on one occasion after observing that Scout was dismal, kisses her, even though Scout is not used to such expressions of attachment. Calpurnia also nicknames Scout “baby”, illustrating her fondness to Scout. All these points strongly show that Calpurnia and Scout do have a caring relationship.
In these ways, the three women have taken different approaches in communicating with Scout. Calpurnia and Fisher are both educated, but have dissimilar ideas of teaching – Fisher thinks it should be left completely to the education authorities, whilst Calpurnia taught her son and Scout herself. Caroline and Miss Maudie are both white, but that doesn’t make their conduct or values similar, in fact Atkinson is more like Calpurnia in the way she treats children. Fisher and Calpurnia are both authorative figures in Scout’s life, and can be controlling, whereas Maudie Atkinson’ is more of a friend to Scout. Calpurnia and Atkinson both hold Atticus in high respect while Caroline Fisher insists he has done “damage” to his daughter’s education, even though she has not yet met him.
After studying the three women in depth, one could come to the conclusion that the three women are nothing like each other. They are certainly all influential to Scout, but it seems Calpurnia has the most impact. These women let the reader perceive the spectrum of Maycomb’s women: from young to old, strict to mellow, black to white.