To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 24 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
"Oh child, those poor Mrunas," she said, and was off. Few other questions would be necessary.
Mrs. Merriweather's large brown eyes always filled with tears when she considered the oppressed. "Living in that jungle with nobody but J. Grimes Everett," she said. "Not a white person'll go near 'em but that saintly J. Grimes Everett."
Mrs. Merriweather played her voice like an organ; every word she said received its full measure: "The poverty... the darkness... the immorality—nobody but J. Grimes Everett knows." (24.26-28)
Oh, sure—feel sorry for the poor "oppressed" Mruna, but not poor oppressed maid Sophy. While Mrs. Merriweather may talk about compassion, and believe that she herself is a compassionate person, actions suggest otherwise. It's easy to feel compassion in the abstract, but living it is much more difficult.
"There's one thing I truly believe, Gertrude," she continued, "but some people just don't see it my way. If we just let them know we forgive 'em, that we've forgotten it, then this whole thing'll blow over." (24.40)
While Atticus talks about seeing things through other people's eyes, Mrs. Merriweather is more concerned with people seeing it through her eyes. (Or trying on her skin. Ew.) Her insistence that the African-Americans need to be forgiven (for what?) shows that Mrs. Merriweather's compassion is so one-sided as to be hardly compassionate at all.
[Jem] was certainly never cruel to animals, but I had never known his charity to embrace the insect world.
"Why couldn't I mash him?" I asked.
"Because they don't bother you," Jem answered in the darkness. He had turned out his reading light.
"Reckon you're at the stage now where you don't kill flies and mosquitoes now, I reckon," I said. "Lemme know when you change your mind. Tell you one thing, though, I ain't gonna sit around and not scratch a redbug."
"Aw dry up," he answered drowsily.
Jem was the one who was getting more like a girl every day, not I. (24.7-12)
If compassion is a girl's quality, then why have most of Scout's lessons on compassion come from Atticus? Maybe the larger cultural message that feelings=feminine trumps her personal experience. In any case, she's using the idea that "compassion" equals "girl" in order to assert that "girl" definitely does not equal "Scout."