What does Aunt Alexandra contribute to the Finch family in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Scout's Aunt Alexandra is the sister of Atticus and wife of Jimmy Hancock; Alexandra and Jimmy live at the old homestead at Finch's Landing, 25 miles west of Maycomb. Alexandra and Jimmy aren't the happiest of couples, and they seem to prefer as much distance apart as possible. Alexandra's own parenting skills are questionable, having produced a son, Henry, "who left home as soon as was humanly possible;" her grandson, Francis, "was the most boring child I ever met," according to Scout. Nevertheless, Alexandra decided that Atticus' children needed a motherly touch, and she invited herself to come and stay with Atticus in Maycomb at the onset of the Tom Robinson trial.

After losing her battle with Atticus to rid the household of Calpurnia, Alexandra settled down

... and life resumed its daily pace. Aunt Alexandra seemed as if she had always lived with us... she had river-boat, boarding-school manners... she was an incurable gossip... She was never bored, and given the slightest chance, she would exercise her royal prerogative: she would arrange, caution, advise and warn.

Alexandra believed that Atticus' home needed a feminine touch, and that both children were in want of a mother figure. She believed that Scout specifically was in need of ladylike qualities, and Alexandra did her best to see that Scout was converted from tomboy to little lady. Alexandra refused to allow Scout to invite Walter Cunningham Jr. to visit, telling Scout that "he--is--trash!" and not worthy of socializing with a Finch. She worried about the repercussions of Atticus defending Tom, and she feared that the family might be in danger after the threats made by Bob Ewell.

But by the end of the novel, Alexandra seems to have found some acceptance from Scout and Jem. Scout admires her ladylike skills at the missionary tea, and Alexandra blames herself for Bob's attack on the children, since she decided not to escort them to the Halloween pageant. In the final chapters, she lovingly tends to Jem's injuries, and in a rare example of giving in to Scout's tomboyish tendencies, she

... brought me my overalls. "Put these on, darling," she said, handing me the garments she most despised.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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