How does the tone and mood shift with the arrival of Aunt Alexandra in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

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At the end ofChapter 11 in To Kill a Mockingbird, the moment Aunt Alexandra arrives to stay for a while, author Harper Lee uses several word choices to change both the tone and the mood of the story. The word choices convey that Lee disapproves of Aunt Alexandra's...

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At the end of Chapter 11 in To Kill a Mockingbird, the moment Aunt Alexandra arrives to stay for a while, author Harper Lee uses several word choices to change both the tone and the mood of the story. The word choices convey that Lee disapproves of Aunt Alexandra's rigid and judgmental viewpoints just as much as the children. The word choices also paint the children's disappointment at seeing their aunt to set the gloomy mood her arrival brings.

Lee establishes her disapproving tone and gloomy mood in the very first sentence Scout uses to describe her unexpected sighting of Aunt Alexandra:

Enarmored, upright, uncompromising, Aunt Alexandra was sitting in a rocking chair exactly as if she had sat there every day of her life. (Ch. 11)

Three very important words Lee uses in Scout's narrative description of Aunt Alexandra are "enarmored," "upright," and "uncompromising."

The word enarmored does not appear in the dictionary; however, the prefix -en can mean "to cause to be in," just like the word entomb means inside of a tomb (Random House Dictionary). Therefore, Lee is using enarmored to describe Aunt Alexandra as being inside of or covered in armor; in other words, Aunt Alexandra has a very hard, impenetrable exterior because she is a very hard, protective person, the sort of person who does not easily express affection. In addition, the word upright can be translated to mean righteous. Finally, to be uncompromising means to be unable to concede to others' views. All in all, the sentence describes Aunt Alexandra as a very cold, hard person, who is set in her ways, and difficult to please, someone the children do not really like and are disappointed to see. Hence, the words of the sentence clearly express their disappointment at seeing her and gloomy mood.

The sentence stands in stark contrast with the conversation Scout had just been having with Calpurnia on the way home from having attended Calpurnia's church. Scout had just asked Cal why she talks "nigger-talk" with the folks at her church when Cal knows it's not the proper way to use English. Cal's response is a lesson in humility. She explains that it's not always right to "tell all you know" and doing so can be offensive and will never be helpful. Lee's word choices show that Aunt Alexandra is the exact opposite of humble Cal; instead of being humble, Aunt Alexandra is proud and righteous. Since Lee has juxtapose Aunt Alexandra with Cal, we can tell that Lee disapproves of Aunt Alexandra's character and is establishing a disapproving tone.

Hence, with just this one sentence, Lee shifts from an approving tone and happy mood to a disapproving tone and gloomy mood.

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