How do the words and actions of Aunt Alexandra and Cousin Francis reflect the prejudices of the town in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The concept of prejudice is represented in To Kill a Mockingbird by Finch family relatives Cousin Francis and Aunt Alexandra.  Aunt Alexandra is more concerned with social class, and Francis is more concerned with race. 

Scout describes both Alexandra and Frances as “uncompromising lineaments” on the coin of Christmas (ch 9).  She does not get along with either of them because they are stubborn and opinionated.   Francis “enjoyed everything [Scout] disapproved of, and disliked [her] ingenuous diversions” and was “the most boring child [she] ever met” (ch 9).  Aunt Alexandra, on the other hand, was just “cold and there” (ch 9).

Scout gets in trouble by Uncle Jack for fighting Frances because he finally goes too far when he says that Atticus’s defense of Tom Robinson will “mortify” the family.

Grandma says it's bad enough he lets you all run wild, but now …we'll never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb agin. He's ruinin' the family, that's what he's doin'." (ch 9)

This annoys and offends Scout, but it is just an 8 year old repeating what he heard in the community.  Francis, like many adults, does not approve of Atticus defending a Black man.  When Jack tells Atticus what happened, he understands.

Scout's got to learn to keep her head and learn soon, with what's in store for her these next few months. (ch 9)

Aunt Alexandra is more concerned with social convention than race.  She wants Scout and Jem, and Atticus, to know that they are Finches and they have a responsible place in the upper crust of society because they are an old landed family.  She expects Scout to behave like a lady.  She is “fanatical on the subject of [Scout’s] attire” and expects Scout to be “playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl necklace she gave [her]” (ch 9).  Scout does not understand Alexandra’s obsession with class.

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. (ch 13)

Aunt Alexandra fit “into the world of Maycomb like a hand into a glove” (ch 13), because her views were shared by most of the people there.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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