To Kill a Mockingbird – Chapter 13

Aunt Alexandra believes that Scout needs the influence of a woman in the house: “Jem’s growing up now and you are too…We decided that it would be best for you to have some feminine influence. It won’t be many years, Jean Louise, before you become interested inclothes and boys—.” It is also apparent that Atticus could use the extra help, since the trial will soon take up most of his time.Scout is not happy about Aunt Alexandra’s arrival. She has not gotten along very wellwith her aunt in the past, and she is not interested in any of the feminine ideals that Aunt Alexandra wants to teach her. Why does Aunt Alexandra come to visit? How does Scout feel about her arrival?
She strongly believes in heredity and that some families have inbred “streaks,” which can predict and explain their behavior. As Scout tells the reader, according to Aunt Alexandra, “Everybody in Maycomb, it seemed, had a Streak: a Drinking Streak, a Gambling Streak, a Mean Streak, a Funny Streak.” She also believes that a family’s goodness has less to do with the way the members conduct themselves and more to do with how long the family has been established: “…the longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was.” This is obviously an illogical belief. Jem highlights the irrational nature of it by stating,”That makes the Ewells fine folks, then.” The Ewell clan is known to be lazy, disrespectful, and mean, but by Aunt Alexandra’s logic, they must be a fine family simply because they have lived on the same patch of ground for generations. What is Aunt Alexandra’s major theory concerning human behavior? How does Jempoint out the irrationality of this theory?
Maycomb’s caste system is similar to Aunt Alexandra’s theory. People are divided into classes or categories based on family history. As in a caste system, people are locked into a particular class and cannot escape it no matter how hard they try. This is because the system is not based on an individual’s actions but merely on what others have come to expect of the family as a whole. As Scout explains, “the older citizens, the present generation of people who had lived side by side for years and years, were utterly predictable to one another: they took for granted attitudes, character shadings, even gestures, as having been repeated in each generation and refined by time.” Scout states that there is a “caste system” in Maycomb. How does she explain the system?
Atticus tells Jem and Scout that Aunt Alexandra wants them to know that they are not from “run-of-the-mill people, that [they] are the product of several generations’ gentle breeding,” and that they “must try to behave like the little lady and gentleman that [they] are.” Atticus admits that he does not know how to say what he has been told to say; he hesitates, fidgets, and appears to be completely out of his element. Because he is so obviously uncomfortable, it seems that Atticus does not really believe in what he is saying. It appears that he is saying it only because Aunt Alexandra demanded that he do so. When Atticus comes into Jem’s room before bedtime to speak with the children, what information does he relay to them from Aunt Alexandra? What is his demeanor andtone? Do you think he believes in what Aunt Alexandra has made him say?
Atticus speaks sharply to her, and she becomes emotional. She is upset because Atticus is not acting like himself and is telling them things he does not believe in: “This was not my father. My father never thought these thoughts. My father never spoke so.” Scout suddenly feels distant and isolated from Atticus, as if she does not know him. What makes Scout cry while Atticus is talking with her and Jem?
Scout asks her father, “You really want us to do all that? I can’t remember everything Finches are supposed to do….” To this, Atticus replies, “I don’t want you to remember it. Forget it.” With this statement, he is admitting that all of the things he just said went against his own beliefs and against what he wants his children to learn. He had said them only to keep peace with Aunt Alexandra, and it is now obvious that he regrets this action. How do the last few paragraphs indicate that Atticus was merely following AuntAlexandra’s orders and that he feels bad about doing so?

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