In chapter 13 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Alexandra Finch comes to stay with her brother Atticus and his children for an unspecified period of time. Aunt Alexandra lives with her husband at Finch’s Landing, where the family has been prominent for generations. She is very proud of the Finch family heritage. She tries to instill this pride in the children and also tries to persuade Jean Louise that being ladylike is the proper behavior for young girls.
Scout remarks on her aunt’s unfathomable “preoccupation with heredity.” One point that Alexandra stresses is that longevity in an area contributes to making people “Fine Folks.” Scout retains her former opinion, however, which is that this attribute applied to “people who did the best they could with the sense they had.”
Jem also shares with Scout his skepticism of his aunt’s conclusion, noting that long-term occupation of land would make “the Ewells fine folks”—despite their dependence on “county welfare money.” He later brings up stories about their family members who do not match the prideful descriptions their aunt provides.
Scout reflects on the entrenched “caste system” in Maycomb, where few outsiders come to live. She understands that people continue established behaviors and become “utterly predictable to one another.” Despite the strong family resemblances that run through generations, she finds it confusing that her father and his sister see things so differently.
Atticus briefly attempts to enforce his sister’s perspective but ultimately admits to the children that he does not share her views. He tries to explain Alexandra’s conviction that they
are not from run-of-the-mill people, that you are the product of several generations’ gentle breeding …. She wants me to talk to you about the family and what it’s meant to Maycomb County through the years….
When Scout, who is upset at her father’s odd behavior and speech, tearfully confesses that she “can’t remember everything Finches are supposed to do,” he admits that he does not want them to remember.