To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In To Kill A Mockingbird, compare and contrast Atticus and Alexandra.

Expert Answers info

Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write10,231 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

Both Atticus and Alexandra care about the well-being of Jem and Scout throughout the novel. While Atticus continually shares valuable life lessons with his children, Alexandra attempts to influence them into acting like respectable, well-mannered individuals. Atticus and Alexandra also want Jem and Scout to get along with the members of their community. Towards the beginning of the novel, Atticus is continually reminding Scout to keep her fists down, while Alexandra encourages her to get involved in social events like the missionary circle.

Despite their similarities and affection for the children, Atticus and Alexandra have drastically different personalities. Alexandra is portrayed as an arrogant, prejudiced individual who continually criticizes Scout for her tomboy lifestyle. In contrast, Atticus is depicted as an affectionate, understanding father who encourages his children to think and act independently. While Alexandra shares the community's racist ideology, Atticus values every human life, regardless of the person's race or ethnicity. Also, the children openly express their love for Atticus, while they go out of their way to avoid Aunt Alexandra.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Elinor Lowery eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2005

write381 answers

starTop subject is Literature

Atticus and Alexandra are two very different people.  The only similarity I can think of is that they both care about others, but in very different ways.  Alexandra cares what others think...Atticus actually cares about the people themselves.  Alexandra seems to represent the old traditional South, clinging to her heritage (what little 'fame' she might have), social standing, prejudices, outward appearance, and southern hospitality/graces.  She is appalled that Scout acts so much like a little boy rather than being and dressing properly as she feels a lady should.  

Atticus on the other hand is progressive.  He is considered to be fair, just, and honest.  He has new ideas and new philosophies about life, and he raises Scout and Jem in this progressive manner.  He allows both Jem and Scout to express themselves and doesn't require that they behave in ways 'worthy' of the Finch name.  He is opposed to a false show of etiquette and behavior, and prefers to live openly and honestly with himself, his children, and his neighbors.

In the novel, Scout mentions that this drastic distinction between the two siblings is a result of gender.  She says that only a woman could raise them as Aunt Alexandra is trying to, but I think the reason for the difference also has to do with what the author is trying to show in the novel.  The differences between Atticus and Alexandra reveal the hypocrisy and prejudices to which some members of society cling.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial