What is Harper Lee's purpose of the Aunt Alexandra's house scene in "To Kill a Mockingbird"?I know that the scene is in Chapter 9 or 10 in "To Kill a Mockingbird."  Thanks for answering, it will...

What is Harper Lee's purpose of the Aunt Alexandra's house scene in "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

I know that the scene is in Chapter 9 or 10 in "To Kill a Mockingbird."  Thanks for answering, it will really help!

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tmcquade | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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When Scout and Jem visit Aunt's Alexandra's house for Christmas dinner, it sets up a contrast to what life is like for them at home.  In fact, Scout is convinced Aunt Alexandra must have been "swapped at birth," for she cannot understand how she and Atticus are related.  At Aunt Alexandra's home, Scout is constantly judged and ridiculed, whereas at home, Atticus is supportive and appreciative of her just the way she is. 

According to Aunt Alexandra, Scout is not "girly" enough and should be more of a "sunbeam in her father's lonely life";  she should certainly not swear - though Atticus has chosen to ignore this most recent habit of Scout's, believing it is just a phase that will go away if it is ignored (and he's right); and she is still just a child deserving to sit at the children's table by herself for dinner.

Furthermore, according to Scout's cousin Frances (who probably just gets this from her aunt), she runs wilds and hangs around with "stray dogs" (Dill), and her father is a "nigger lover" and bringing shame to the rest of the family.  It is for this last remark that Scout decides to "knock (Frances's) block off," earning a spanking from her Uncle Jack.

This also sets up a contrast - this time between Uncle Jack and Atticus - and the reader clearly sees Atticus's effective parenting techniques.  Scout points out to Uncle Jack that Atticus never just listens to one side (hers or Jem's) before dishing out a punishment - he always listens to both sides, which Uncle Jack had not done.  He only heard Frances's side before punishing Scout. 

And later, Atticus teaches Jack another important lesson: he shouldn't evade a child's questions.  When Scout asks Uncle Jack what a "whore lady" is, he basically changes the subject.  Atticus says that such evasions simply "muddle" childen, and you should answer them honestly and directly.

Most importantly, this sets up the conversation between Atticus and Jack on which Scout eavesdrops, and which Atticus intends for her to overhear, where he discusses the difficulties of the upcoming trial and that, if the children have questions, he hopes they will come to him for their answers. 

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