Comment on Aunt Alexandra's ideas about breeding and family, including why Atticus says to forget it and which one is right.  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Aunt Alexandra's attitude towards the family are set in contrast to those of Atticus.  She is exceedingly proud of the family while Atticus essays to lessen the influence of the family by emphasizing the right of each person to be an individual.

Scout declares that she does not understand her aunt's "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...that the longer a family had been squatting on one paptch of land the finer it was."

The ideas Old South is contrasted her with the New South.  The British concept of the importance of family name and position persists in Aunt Alexandra while Atticus--and Scout who has learned from him--think the concept of the individual much more important, an idea held more strongly by immigrants who came into Ellis Island in the port of New York.

There is validity in both perspectives:  One's ancestry does play a part in personality traits; talents and aptitudes, and inclinations are often inherited.  On the other hand, one must not resign oneself to a certain behavior because one aunt of uncle has the same traits.  Certainly, a person can be an individual who makes one's own existence in spite of some inherent idiosyncrasy.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Aunt Alexandra's attitude toward family history and heritage reveals her sense of social superiority; she is a snob. She takes pride not in her own accomplishments, but in the fact that she is a member of an old established family whose roots are deep in Alabama. Alexandra is devoted to what was once an old Southern social caste system with wealthy white planters, handing down their estates for generations, on top of the social and economic ladder, and poor blacks, slaves at one time, on the bottom. In Alexandra's view of society, one's personal value and social standing are determined at birth and not subject to change.

The rejection of this same philosophy, when it existed as political philosophy, as well, led to the founding of the American colonies and then to the American Revolution. Alexandra speaks a lot about her Southern heritage, but she does not speak of her American heritage, unlike Atticus who respects and honors the principles upon which the country was founded. Like Atticus, I think Jem and Scout should ignore Alexandra's teachings and refuse to join her in living in the 18th and 19th centuries.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The message of the novel is that everyone is the same, deep down, where it matters.  Attticus wants his children to treat everyone with human respect they deserve, no matter what their status, wealth, or skin color.  He admonishes the children for playing "The Boo Radley Game," he makes Jem read to Mrs. Dubose, he expects Scout to treat Walter Cunningham as a respected guest at their dinner table, and the list goes on.  Atticus treats everyone with respect and teaches by example.  He is even as respectful as is necessary with the Ewells, and he hopes that his children recognize that even when it doesn't seem fair, everyone deserves at least a modicum of respect.

julia922 | Student

I think something like this is very important for Aunt Alexandra because she is very snobby and considers herself to be the best, meaning in you could not get any better in the way she was “bred” and everyone should be like that. I think Atticuz tells them to forget it because he realizes how stupid it is. I don’t think Atticus would ever want Scout or Jem to turn out like Aunt Alexandra.

cheesepie14 | Student

I think Aunt Alexandra really wants to make a point about really more how they should act rather than how their familly is so great and what not. She is a snob but more so because of her ante bellum thought process.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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