What theory does Aunt Alexandra have about where people in Maycomb get their faults from in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Aunt Alexandra has this strange notion that the characteristics of each family are handed down from generation to generation. So if a family has the reputation of being bad—like the Ewells, for example—it's because they've always been bad, and, what's more, always will be bad. Such families have a genetic bad streak that simply cannot be erased by the passage of time.

By the same token, "good" families like the Finches are the product of good breeding, which stretches back several generations. According to Aunt Alexandra, the Finches are a good family because they have a good streak in them. Because of this happy genetic inheritance, they have always been a good family and always will be a good family, come what may. It's all in the genes.

An additional factor in making a family "good" is the amount of time they've been occupying a particular plot of land. On Aunt Alexandra's view, the ownership of land, especially over a long period of time, confers power, status, and respectability, all the things that really matter in life to this crashing snob.

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Aunt Alexandra's answer to everything in To Kill a Mockingbird seems to deal with heredity. The Finch family ranked at the top of Alexandra's "caste system," and all other families fell somewhat lower.

She never let a chance escape her to point out the shortcomings of other tribal groups to the greater glory of our own...

There were hereditary Streaks, and every family in Maycomb had one:

... a Drinking Streak, a Gambling Streak, a Mean Streak, a Funny Streak.

There were Fine Folks, though Scout and her aunt disagreed on the interpretation of the term. To Scout, Fine Folks were "people who did the best they could with the sense they had." But to Alexandra, Fine Folks were determined by how long "a family had been squatting on one patch of land..." Scout seemed to agree with some of her Aunt Alexandra's thinking: Older folks "were utterly predictable," and most of the people's quirks and attitudes were simply handed down from a previous generation of the family, each "refined by time."

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