Identify a significant female character in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and locate examples that give insight into the character's beliefs.
Aunt Alexandra is a significant female character in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Alexandra is the quintessential Southern lady with an affinity for family heritage. Aunt Alexandra chastises Atticus for his child rearing techniques because he chooses not to educate his children on their family history and background. Scout describes Aunt Alexandra's theory regarding heredity by saying, "the longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was." (Lee 173) Aunt Alexandra judges individuals based on their family history rather than their individual merit. Alexandra believes that every family has a "streak" associated with some specific quality like alcoholism, gambling, aggressive behavior, etc. In Chapter 23, Aunt Alexandra tells Scout she is not allowed to play with Walter Cunningham because "he—is—trash." (Lee 301) This statement reflects Alexandra's prejudiced beliefs towards lower class families and her narrow perception of individual merit.
In addition to being obsessed with family heritage, Aunt Alexandra is "fanatical" in regard to Scout's attire. Alexandra views Scout with contempt for her "tomboyish" personality and style. Scout says, "I could not possibly 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." (Lee 108) Alexandra's role in the novel is to teach Scout how to be a lady. She allows Scout to take part in her "missionary circle" and models appropriate feminine behaviors for Scout. Her initial disapproval of Scout wanes after Scout displays proper manners during a missionary circle gathering.