What values and behaviors did Aunt Alexandra try to impart to the children in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

GENTLE BREEDING.  Aunt Alexandra is a firm believer in this, but it is a term that Atticus tries to explain to the children without much success. It has to do with not being "run-of-the-mill people" and being descended from "beautiful character[s]" such as the family poet (and oddball) Joshua S. St. Clair. Generations of gentle breeding also teach children to "behave like the little lady and gentleman that you are."

FINE FOLKS.  Another of Alexandra's unclearly definable terms, Scout and her aunt disagree on the exact nature of Fine Folks. To Alexandra, they are Maycomb's oldest families, and "the longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was." Scout defines Fine Folks differently.

I had received the impression that Fine Folks were people who did the best they could with the sense they had."  (Chapter 13)

FAMILY HERITAGE.  Scout "never understood her preoccupation with heredity." Alexandra believes that the Finch family stands head and shoulders above all of Maycomb's other families, and that all other families are burdened with "morbid" streaks:

Everybody in Maycomb, it seemed, had a Streak: a Drinking Streak, a Gambling Streak, a Mean Streak, a Funny Streak.  (Chapter 13)

Finches do not associate socially with some families, such as the Cunninghams, and this is one reason why Alexandra will not allow Walter Jr. to come and play with Scout, since "he--is--trash..."

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As was mentioned in the previous post, Aunt Alexandra attempts to impart to the children a sense of admiration and respect for the Finch family name. According to Scout, Alexandra was obsessed with family heritage and wished to educate the children about their rich family history. She even petitions her brother, Atticus, to have a discussion with Jem and Scout about the fact that they come from a unique, well-respected family. Alexandra also does not want Jem and Scout associating with anyone from the lower class because she feels like it would damage their family's reputation.

Alexandra also encourages Jem and Scout to act like well-behaved individuals who represent the Finch family properly throughout town. Alexandra also has high standards for Scout, and she attempts to turn Scout into a Southern belle. Alexandra discourages Scout from wearing overalls and playing outside with the boys. She prefers that Scout wear dresses and participate in social events like the other ladies in Maycomb. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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