How does Scout's and Alexandra's relationship improve in the book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After Aunt Alexandra arrives to assist her brother and to oversee the proper education of Scout as a lady, there is much opposition on the part of the little tomboy who wears overalls and balks at the idea of wearing dresses. Because Scout overhears Aunt Alexandra telling Atticus that Calpurnia is no longer needed and because she has incomprehensible ideas about what determines who are proper folks and who are not, there is friction between her and her aunt. However, when Scout is made to dress up for her aunt's Missionary Tea, she sits politely and responds to the questions of the ladies. Still, she is relieved when Miss Maudie speaks to her with genuine interest. Later, Scout begins to sympathize with her aunt when Mrs. Merriweather deliberately says to Gertrude for all to hear, 

"I tell you there are some good but misguided people in this town. Good, but misguided."

Further, Mrs. Merriweather goes on to comment that these "well-meaning people" who were "misguided," have only "stirred up the black community." She mentions her own maid and how Sophy has been acting in such a manner that she has considered firing her. Angry that a guest has insulted Aunt Alexandra and Atticus indirectly by her insinuations, Miss Maudie makes a cynical remark to Mrs. Merriweather. All this makes Scout "wonder at the world of women" and begin to perceive Alexandra in a new light as subject to insults much like those hurled at herself.

Not long after this incident, Atticus comes home to tell his sister and Miss Maudie that Tom Robinson has been killed. With all the fortitude that a brave woman carries, Alexandra goes through the swinging door in order to serve refreshments, looking as cool as if nothing had happened.  Moved, Scout remarks, 

.. if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I.  (Ch. 24)

An admiring Scout soon follows and overhears Miss Maudie, who consoles Alexandra about her anxiety for Atticus, telling her that Atticus has the respect of those people "who have background." Scout is touched by this gesture toward Alexandra and begins to see her in a new light.

Further in the narrative, before the children are attacked by Bob Ewell, Aunt Alexandra has a premonition which she describes as feeling as though "someone had walked across [her] grave." Then, when the children are hurt, Aunt Alexandra regrets this terrible incident could not have been prevented. She brings Scout her overalls with the message,

"Put these on, darling," she said, "handing me the garments she most despised."  (Chapter 28)

This purely loving gesture wins the heart of Scout and her relationship with Aunt Alexandra heals.

Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout's relationship with Aunt Alexandra starts to change in Chapter 24. Here, Atticus comes home, interrupting Aunt Alexandra's missionary circle meeting, to announce to Alexandra and Calpurnia that Tom Robinson had been shot by guards while he was trying to escape from prison. While in the kitchen, Scout gets the opportunity to witness Aunt Alexandra say some very moving things about Atticus.

Alexandra exclaims to Miss Maudie, "It tears him to pieces" and asks, "What else do they want from him Maudie, what else?" Alexandra goes on to explain how the whole town is willing to "wreck his health" to do what they're afraid to do"--establish fair trial for all citizens--black and white alike.

Scout gains even more respect for Aunt Alexandra when she observes her, despite the upsetting news, compose herself enough to go back out and entertain. After that, Scout makes the observation to herself that if Aunt Alexandra could "be a lady" in a time of trouble, then so could Scout. All in all, by this point in the story, Scout has learned to appreciate Aunt Alexandra for her strength of character and to discover her own femininity. She saw that "being a lady" was something to be proud of, not scorn.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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