What are the values of Aunt Alexandra and the community of Maycomb in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mrshh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tradition is important, both in Maycomb and to Aunt Alexandra. Many things have been done the same way for generations, and people want it to stay that way. These unchanged elements and common practices of daily life range from manners to the way a person dresses to how much they attend church. There are certain expectations, and these come from age-old traditions.

Scout describes Maycomb and its ways. She notes that the town itself is quite old, and that certain things are done in a particular way there:

Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer's day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men's stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum (Chapter 1).

The examples of common practices in Maycomb that Scout gives are ladies bathing and napping at the same time each day, and men wearing their collars stiff despite the heat.

Aunt Alexandra strongly holds to tradition and common practices. For example, she believes little girls should prepare themselves for becoming polite Southern ladies. Scout prefers to wear pants and play outside, and she explains her interactions with her aunt on this matter:

Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn't supposed to be doing things that required pants. Aunt Alexandra's vision of my deportment involved playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl necklace she gave me when I was born; furthermore, I should be a ray of sunshine in my father's lonely life (Chapter 9).

In addition to her beliefs about proper young ladies, Aunt Alexandra also has a "preoccupation with heredity" (Chapter 13). She thinks certain families are certain ways based on heredity. She thinks the Finch family is a respectable one and that all its members should live up to this standard.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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