To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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What is Aunt Alexandra preoccupied with in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Scout mentions that Aunt Alexandra is preoccupied with heredity and is fascinated by how long certain families have been living on various plots of land. According to Scout, Aunt Alexandra believes that the longer a family has been living on a plot of land, the finer the family's reputation is throughout the town. Alexandra also has an in-depth knowledge of Maycomb's caste system and believes in family streaks. She is quick to judge any member of Maycomb's community and associates their individual personalities with their family's specific "streak," or reputation. Aunt Alexandra is infatuated with her family's rich history and heritage. She encourages Atticus to teach his children about their successful, revered ancestors and Atticus almost acquiesces by attempting to lecture Scout and Jem. Overall, Aunt Alexandra has antiquated, traditional Southern views on heredity and family history. She is blatantly prejudiced and is depicted as a rather superficial woman who is quick to judge her community members and believes that family reputation is of the utmost importance.

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Eleanora Howe eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Aunt Alexandra, Atticus's sister, is mostly preoccupied with traditional Southern culture, especially in terms of class hierarchies and gender roles. Generally, this preoccupation manifests itself in one of two ways. For one thing, Aunt Alexandra is concerned with maintaining the good name of the Finch family, which has a history of wealth and high class in Maycomb County. Second, she is devoted to ensuring Scout grows up to be a "proper lady," and she moves in with Atticus to provide a feminine influence for his children. More specifically, Aunt Alexandra disapproves of Scout's tomboy personality, and she tries her hardest to force Scout to abide by traditional female gender roles. In this way, Aunt Alexandra reveals she is highly preoccupied with tradition and will work hard to maintain it at all costs.

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