How does Scout react to Aunt Alexandra's demands that scout must act like a lady in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 9, Scout mentions that her aunt is fanatical about her attire and attempts to pressure her into acting like a typical Southern belle. Aunt Alexandra continually criticizes Scout for her tomboy personality throughout the novel and even buys her small stoves, tea sets, and an Add-A-Pearl necklace to encourage Scout to act more like a lady. Scout resents her aunt's insistence that she behave like a female and continues to wear overalls and play outside. Despite Scout's affinity for playing rough games and dressing like a tomboy, she attempts to please Alexandra in chapter 24 by attending her aunt's missionary circle. Scout even wears a dress over top of her overalls and carries refreshments into the living room while the women socialize. Scout is anxious the entire time around the ladies but does her best to converse with the decorous women. When Scout notices her aunt subtly acknowledge Miss Maudie for defending Atticus, Scout becomes curious about the world of women and says,

There was no doubt about it, I must soon enter this world, where on its surface fragrant ladies rocked slowly, fanned gently, and drank cool water. But I was more at home in my father’s world. People like Mr. Heck Tate did not trap you with innocent questions to make fun of you; even Jem was not highly critical unless you said something stupid. Ladies seemed to live in faint horror of men, seemed unwilling to approve wholeheartedly of them. But I liked them. (Lee, 237)

Scout's comments reveal that she is still more comfortable acting like a tomboy and is not fully prepared to enter the world of women. Despite Alexandra's criticism and insistence on exposing her to feminine social events, Scout does not fully embrace the idea of behaving like a polite southern lady. Femininity is not something that Scout has an affinity for, and so she chooses to remain a tomboy for the remainder of the story.

lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter nine of To Kill a Mockingbird, Aunt Alexandra is determined that Scout will act like a lady. She has argued this point with Atticus, hoping for his support in the matter. She insists that Scout wear a dress and stop doing the things that require her to wear breeches or pants:

Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possible hope to be a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn't supposed to be doing things that required pants.

Aunt Alexandra desires for Scout to play with toys that are becoming to a little lady. Scout detests such toys. She is a tom-boy through and through. Aunt Alexandra specifically wishes Scout would play with "small stoves" and "tea sets." She gave her a pearl necklace when she was born. She desires for Scout to wear it and act like a lady.

In chapter nine, Aunt Alexandra tries to direct Scout in the role of becoming a little lady:

Another instance of the social code appearing in this chapter occurs when Uncle Jack and Aunt Alexandra try to teach Scout how to be a young lady. They are trying to teach her the unwritten code so that as she matures, she will accept her proper role in society.

Scout is determined to rebel against any such teaching. She is contented being the tom-boy she is and nothing Aunt Alexandra can do will change that.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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