Author Harper Lee uses Chapter 13 to discuss Aunt Alexandra's obsession with her family heritage, but Scout soon learns that her aunt's rendition about the family's most celebrated member--writer Joshua S. St. Clair--doesn't quite jibe with Atticus's version. While Alexandra describes Joshua as a "beautiful character," Atticus has told the children that
"... he went round the bend at the University. Said he tried to shoot the president... with an old flintlock pistol, only it just blew up in his hand. Atticus said it cost the family five hundred dollars to get him out of that one--"
An angry Alexandra had a long talk with Atticus afterward, and he eventually emerged, "looked at us soberly, then he grinned." His long explanation about "gentle breeding" and Alexandra's demand that the children begin behaving "like the little lady and gentleman that you are" bored Scout, and Atticus admonished her.
His curtness stung me...
and Scout began crying. When she was able to explain that she might not be able to remember it all, Atticus quickly realized that it was too much for the children to swallow, and he did an about-face.
"I don't want you to remember it. Forget it."
Atticus tried to make amends by comparing himself to Joshua, but Scout saw through his apology.
I know now what he was trying to do, but Atticus was only a man. It takes a woman to do that kind of work.