How does Scout's definition of "fine folks" differ from Aunt Alexandra's?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 23, Aunt Alexandra tells Scout that she cannot invite Walter Jr. over to play because he is "trash." Fortunately, Jem intervenes by taking Scout to his room. In Jem's room, Scout tells Jem that she disagrees with her aunt's assessment of Walter Jr. and believes that Walter Jr. is not trash like the Ewells. Jem then says he has everything figured out and explains Maycomb's caste system to Scout by saying,

There’s four kinds of folks in the world. There’s the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there’s the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes (Lee, 230).

The two siblings then begin discussing what makes people different. Jem believes that is has something to do with how long one's family has been "readin‘ and writin’." Scout displays her maturity and perspective by noting that the only thing separating people are their opportunities in life. Scout then tells Jem,

Nothin’s wrong with him. Naw, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks (Lee, 231).

Scout's egalitarian view contrasts with her aunt's prejudiced, judgmental perspective of society. While Alexandra believes that families are considered "fine folks" because of their social status, extensive family history, and the length of time they have owned the same property, Scout believes all people are inherently equal.

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Aunt Alexandra bases her judgment of others on external characteristics such as social standing, income, family history, dress, and manners.  This is evident from her constant efforts to change Scout's appearance, silence the children when they talk about black sheep in the Finch family, and in whom she chooses to invite to Atticus's house when she lives with Scout and Jem.

Scout, on the other hand, has blossomed under her father's wisdom and tolerance.  She learns by the end of the novel to look at the internal.  She bases her opinion of what makes somebody "fine" on observing how a person acts and by studying the motivation for his/her actions. For example, Scout portrays Heck Tate positively in her narration by telling of his warning Atticus about the mob of men headed toward the jail.  She listens to and seems to understand Dolphus Raymond, the town outcast, when he tells the children why he acts drunk.  She treats Boo Radley with dignity and respect at the novel's end when she realizes what he sacrificed for her and Jem by saving their lives.  While Scout might not have perceived these characters as "fine" at the book's beginning, as she matures, so does her view of others.

zumba96 | Student

Scout views other people as different since she has her father's values instilled in her. If she views someone she not only views them based on their external qualities, but also views their character. She treats Boo nicely as well as other people and wants to understand them. As Scout matures her  morals allow her to judge someone based on their acts, not on their outside features. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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