Compare Jem and Scout's relationship with Atticus to their relationship with Aunt Alexandra in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jem and Scout have an exceptional relationship with their father, Atticus, in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The children's mother died when Scout was young, so Atticus has been their only parent for four or five years. While they often get frustrated by the things he will not do (play football or teach them to shoot their air-guns) and are unimpressed by all the things he can do (make an air-tight will and play a Jew's harp), they love and respect their father.

When Atticus kills old Tim Johnson, the rabid dog, Jem says:

"Atticus is real old, but I wouldn’t care if he couldn’t do anything—I wouldn’t care if he couldn’t do a blessed thing.” Jem picked up a rock and threw it jubilantly at the carhouse. Running after it, he called back: “Atticus is a gentleman, just like me!”

Atticus is not a harsh man but he expects his children to be well behaved; on the other hand, he loves them very much. When Scout explains to Miss Caroline how she learned to read, we can visualize the scene:

I could not remember when the lines above Atticus’s moving finger separated into words, but I had stared at them all the evenings in my memory, listening to the news of the day, Bills to Be Enacted into Laws, the diaries of Lorenzo Dow—anything Atticus happened to be reading when I crawled into his lap every night.

The children's relationship with Aunt Alexandra is nothing like their relationship with their father, primarily because she is everything Atticus is not, even though she is his sister. She is concerned about things that do not matter and takes things seriously which are not serious, such as their family heritage. While Atticus listens and reserves judgment, Aunt Alexandra is quite judgmental, as demonstrated by her vocal views about Calpurnia's influence on the children, her brother's decision to defend Tom Robinson, and Scout's dress and manners.

Atticus is steady and does not change throughout the novel, but Aunt Alexandra does soften her views toward blacks, her brother, and the children by the end of the story. It is not surprising that Jem and Scout have a better relationship with their father than they do with an aunt they do not see very often--and who is much more closed-minded than they are used to from the other adults in their lives (Atticus, Calpurnia, Miss Maudie). 

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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