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In Chapter 13 of To Kill a Mockingbird, what is Aunt Alexandra's major theory...

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jsilk2015 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 10, 2012 at 1:55 AM via web

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In Chapter 13 of To Kill a Mockingbird, what is Aunt Alexandra's major theory concerning human behavior?

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missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 10, 2012 at 2:49 AM (Answer #1)

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Aunt Alexandra's main assertion is that people are the way they are because of their families. Heredity and genetics can be to explain for every human behavior. If someone has a lisp, it's because their mother had one too. If someone tends to cheat at checkers, it may very well be that their great great grandpa did too. If someone is rich, their ancestors must have been too. Unfortunately this order of thinking doomed many people to her unmerited judgment. But that was just Alexandra's way. 

This can be supported by two quotes from the chapter:

Everybody in Maycomb, it seemed, had a Streak: a Drinking Streak, a Gambling Streak, a Mean Streak, a Funny Streak.

I never understood her preoccupation with heredity. Somewhere, I had received the impression that Fine Folks were people who did the best they could with the sense they had, but Aunt Alexandra was of the opinion, obliquely expressed, that the longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was.

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mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted February 8, 2015 at 7:22 PM (Answer #2)

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Aunt Alexandra comes to town and she and Scout clash at once. Scout's way of thinking does not go along with the way Aunt Alexandra thinks. Aunt Alexandra believes that heredity can explain why people are the way they are. She claims that if one person has a problem, then someone in their family tree had the same problem. She says that if someone has a drinking problem, then somewhere in their history a family member had a drinking problem. This sets people up to be failures in Aunt Alexandra's eyes. She is quick to judge someone and not look at other circumstances. Scout thinks the complete opposite of people. Atticus had taught both Jem and Scout to give people the benefit of the doubt, and to be open minded and not quick to judge. 

I never understood her preoccupation with heredity. Somewhere, I had received the impression that fine folks were people who did the best they could with the sense they had, but Aunt Alexandra was of the opinion, obliquely expressed, that the longer a family had been squatting on one piece of land the finer it was.

This goes to show just how different Atticus was raising his children. He had different ideas of what it meant to be a good person and he instilled these ideas onto his children. By the end of the book, however, Scout does come to respect Aunt Alexandra and learns a little bit from her.

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