To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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How does Aunt Alexandra change in Chapter 24 of To Kill A Mockingbird? 

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Aunt Alexandra is sympathetic about Tom's death and treats Scout with compassion.

Aunt Alexandra has clearly been affected by her time at the Finches’ house.  She seems to be softening somewhat.  For example, the day of the party she lets Calpurnia serve.  She also seems sympathetic to Scout, having her join the ladies only for refreshments because she thinks Scout would be bored.

Aunt Alexandra has always had an interest in Scout’s upbringing.  She feels that Scout should wear dresses and not climb trees.  The missionary meeting is part of this process.  She is happy to see Scout, who has succeeded in not spilling the coffee pot.

My journey was successful: Aunt Alexandra smiled brilliantly. “Stay with us, Jean Louise,” she said. This was a part of her campaign to teach me to be a lady. (Ch. 24)

While Alexandra seemed to be extremely bigoted, going by her comments about Atticus, she appears to have changed when the conversation at the missionary circle gets heated.  Mrs. Merriweather and Mrs. Farrow talk about how to treat black folks in an incredibly condescending manner.  Miss Maudie makes it known that she does not agree, and Alexandra sides with Miss Maudie.

She gave Miss Maudie a look of pure gratitude, and I wondered at the world of women. Miss Maudie and Aunt Alexandra had never been especially close, and here was Aunty silently thanking her for something. (Ch. 24)

Scout is baffled by this conversation.  To her, Miss Maudie and Aunt Alexandra are opposites.  However, Alexandra desires to be supportive of her brother.  She is “alarmed” when Atticus comes in and tells Calpurnia that Tom Robinson is dead.  He is Atticus’s client, after all, even if he is black.  She clearly demonstrates sympathy for Tom when she learns that he was shot at the prison.

“Didn’t they try to stop him? Didn’t they give him any warning?” Aunt Alexandra’s voice shook. (Ch. 24)

Alexandra tells Atticus that Tom’s death is “the last straw.”  Clearly to her, shooting Tom Robinson was wrong.  However Alexandra felt about Atticus defending a black man before, she has reversed her attitude.  She cares about her brother, and does not want to see him hurt.  She also seems to care what happens to Tom Robinson as a human being, not a black man.

Miss Maudie helps Aunt Alexandra and Scout keep it together, and they return to the room full of ladies.  Alexandra actually smiles at Scout, being supportive.  Scout admires her ability to “be a lady” despite all that is happening.  The two have finally come to an understanding.

In this chapter, we see a different side of Aunt Alexandra.  The view presented by Francis at Christmastime is not flattering.  Scout also feels suffocated by her aunt’s attentions.  Yet in this chapter it becomes clear that Alexandra really does care about her brother.  She is not as bigoted as we once thought.  Apparently Alexandra has the capacity for change, and for empathy.

 

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