How does Harper Lee use specific examples of character development as we get to know Aunt Alexandra in To Kill a Mockingbird?THANKS

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lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As readers, we can typically deconstruct a character by looking at a few things, including what the character says and does, what others say about and how others react to, the character, and an author's direct description.  Aunt Alexandra is an interesting character because she's so different from Atticus and their other brother, Jack.  Alexandra is very focused on family connections and who has the most respectable ones; when she arrives in Maycomb, she is very concerned that both Scout and Jem begin to behave in a way that is more reflective of her perceptions of the Finches as being important people.  We know from what her grandson Francis tells Scout on Christmas Day that she does not approve of Atticus taking the Tom Robinson case, and that she also believes Atticus lets the children have too much freedom in their play.  Overall, Alexandra isn't a terribly sympathetic figure throughout most of the novel; even Atticus gets impatient with her nagging at one point and snaps at her that he is doing the best that he can.  However, we see a softer side of Alexandra at the end of the novel, when she admits to being concerned about Atticus, noting that the Tom Robinson case has bothered him a great deal more than he lets on, and that she knows of he has been under a substantial amount of stress, despite his efforts to downplay it.  As with the best characters, Alexandra is neither completely good or completely bad; she is as complex as real people tend to be, and one need only begin to explore her history and beliefs to understand some of what motivates her--again, just like real people. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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