To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Seemingly overnight after Mrs. Dubose’s death, Jem becomes moody and starts telling Scout what to do, including to act like a proper girl. Calpurnia assures Scout that Jem is just growing up and invites Scout to join her in the kitchen. Things look bright for a while, and Scout starts to suspect that there’s skill involved with being a girl. However, she receives a letter from Dill early in the summer, which says that Dill has to stay in Mississippi with his new father. He promises to return and marry Scout, which is little comfort—for her, Dill is summer. To make matters worse, Atticus leaves for two weeks to attend an emergency legislative session. One morning, Scout and Jem find a cartoon in the paper that depicts Atticus chained to a desk. Jem tells Scout that it’s about Atticus doing things that nobody else will do.
As Scout begins to think that there’s more to being a girl than she thought, it shows that she’s starting to grow up and come to a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be an adult in the world. While there’s no indication of why Alabama called this emergency session or of what they’re working on, there is some truth to the idea that Atticus does things that nobody else will do. Remember that he shot Tim Johnson when Mr. Tate wouldn’t, and in the months to come, Atticus will defend Tom Robinson, something that nobody else will do or wants him to do.
Themes
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
Scout heads for the kitchen. Calpurnia asks what to do about church this week. Scout points out that Atticus left collection for them and they haven’t misbehaved in church in years, but Calpurnia invites Scout and Jem to come to her church instead. That night she bathes Scout roughly and supervises Jem. In the morning, Scout puts on her heavily starched dress. Calpurnia leads them to First Purchase, the black church, named because freed slaves bought it with their first earnings. Most people part respectfully and let Calpurnia lead Scout and Jem to the steps, but one woman, Lula, asks why Calpurnia has white children. Jem and Scout want to leave, but the rest of the congregation shuts Lula out and assures the children that they’re welcome.
Lula’s reaction indicates that among the black population of Maycomb, there’s prejudice, just like in white Maycomb. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that Lula has good reason to want to keep what likely feels like a safe space for her free from the racism of white people. Especially going forward from this point, Scout will see just how discriminatory Maycomb is and just how terribly most white people think of and treat their black neighbors.
Themes
Prejudice Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Reverend Sykes leads Calpurnia, Scout, and Jem to the front pew. Calpurnia gives dimes to Scout and Jem, telling them to keep theirs, and Scout asks where the hymnbooks are. Calpurnia shushes her. Reverend Sykes makes announcements and says that the collection this week will go to Helen, Tom Robinson’s wife. Zeebo comes to the front of the church to lead the first hymn. Scout can’t help herself and asks how they’re going to sing without books, but Zeebo leads the congregation in a call-and-response of the hymn. The sermon is forthright and familiar to Scout, but she finds it odd that people go to the front to offer their collection. Reverend Sykes counts it and says they need to reach $10 before people can leave. Jem takes his and Scout’s dimes up, and finally they reach $10.
In Scout’s mind, church looks, feels, and proceeds a certain way. It’s off-putting, then, to find herself without the usual amenities, like hymnbooks. This becomes an important moment in which Scout gets to see firsthand the way that other people in her town go about things, as it introduces her to the fact that not everyone in Maycomb lives like she does, or even the way that poor white families like the Cunninghams live. While they may all go through more or less the same rituals, there are distinct differences depending on a person’s skin color or their degree of wealth.
Themes
Prejudice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
Outside, Jem and Scout chat with Reverend Sykes. He mentions that Atticus is very kind and Scout asks why they’re taking collection for Helen. He explains that Helen can’t take her children to work, which seems odd to Scout. Reverend Sykes says that Helen can’t find work as Calpurnia leads her away. Scout peppers Calpurnia with questions and learns that Tom is in jail because Bob Ewell accused him of raping his daughter. Scout remembers how Atticus called the Ewells trash and asks what rape is. Calpurnia won’t say. Jem asks about the way they sing hymns and Calpurnia explains that most of the congregation is illiterate. She says that Miss Maudie’s aunt taught her to read. Calpurnia taught Zeebo from a book that Atticus’s father gave her—the Finches have employed her from the beginning.
Learning that Calpurnia and Zeebo are two of only a handful of literate black people in Maycomb drives home both how impoverished and how segregated Maycomb is—there’s no mention, for instance, that there’s even a school available for black children. Remembering what Atticus implied about the Ewells and how horrible they are, Scout believes right away that Tom Robinson probably isn’t at fault, simply because she so fully trusts her father to make good assessments and lead her in the right direction.
Themes
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
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Jem comments that this is why Calpurnia doesn’t talk like the other black people, and Scout realizes that she’s never thought of Calpurnia leading a double life and speaking two languages. She asks why Calpurnia speaks incorrectly to black people when she knows it’s wrong. Calpurnia points out that she’s black and notes that she needs to speak that way to make people feel comfortable. Scout asks if she can visit Calpurnia at her house sometime, and Calpurnia insists she’d be glad to have her. Jem points Scout’s attention to the porch. She looks first at the Radley porch, but then sees Aunt Alexandra on their porch.
Calpurnia’s willingness to host Scout makes it clear that there’s more to her relationship with the Finch family than simply cooking for them: she truly is a member of the family. Scout’s desire to visit, meanwhile, shows that she’s beginning to understand how much she doesn’t know about even her immediate world—and her desire to figure it out speaks to the fact that she’s growing up and actively trying to be less prejudiced.
Themes
Prejudice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon