How can I compare and contrast Aunt Alexandra's mothering to that of Calpurnia?

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mrwickline eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Aunt Alexandra and Calpurnia are similar in some ways in their approach to childrearing, but different in others. Calpurnia is the Finch’s African American cook and housekeeper who cares for Jem and Scout throughout the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Calpurnia differs from Aunt Alexandra in many ways, chiefly beginning with the fact she is of a different race and social class. Calpurnia’s child rearing techniques seem more sympathetic towards the children in comparison to Alexandra’s. She is more forgiving toward Scout’s “tomboyish” ways, and is more understanding of the children’s struggles. Calpurnia seems more concerned about teaching the children life lessons, like how to treat people with respect at all times, when compared to Alexandra’s mothering approach. Her ability to understand the children and dismiss feminine social conventions might be in part due to the fact that she occupies a lower social class.

Aunt Alexandra comes from a higher social class than Calpurnia, and is the sister of Atticus Finch. Alexandra is tough on Scout because she views Scout’s lifestyle with contempt. Scout says, “When I said I couldn't do anything in a dress, she said I wasn't supposed to be doing things that required pants.” Alexandra is preoccupied with maintaining a prestigious family name. Her concerns for the children are from the perspective of a concerned relative who cares about the family name, which can come across as callous at times.

Both women are strict, in the sense that they intervene immediately when Jem and Scout misbehave. They are both positive role models who have the children’s best interests in mind. Both women are concerned with the children’s appearance, more so Alexandra than Calpurnia. Alexandra and Calpurnia both try to teach the children how to have character.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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