Why is Aunt Alexandra so obsessed with 'Old family' and 'Finch pride'? What does she hope to accomplish by making Jem and Scout feel that way, as well? Describe her visit to Atticus's place and the...

Why is Aunt Alexandra so obsessed with 'Old family' and 'Finch pride'? What does she hope to accomplish by making Jem and Scout feel that way, as well? Describe her visit to Atticus's place and the feelings of the children towards her.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For Aunt Alexandra, "Old Family" and "Finch Pride" reflect her conservative approach and attitudes.  Aunt Alexandra is concerned with tradition, "the way things should be," and social reputation.  It is to this extent where "Old Family" and "Finch Pride " are essential to her. She represents the contingent of society that wishes to continue the way things are as a part consciousness. As a setting, family pride and traditional notions of familial legacy are essential to the town of Maycomb.  The way one acts is reflective of their family status. Aunt Alexandra speaks to this often. Sometimes, this is seen in how she speaks of other families:  "It just goes to show you all Penfield women are flighty." Being able to label families in a particular manner is a part of this construction of family identity.  When Aunt Alexandra decides that the Atticus's family needs a more "feminine" force, it is reflective of a condition where "Old Family" and "Finch Pride" are seen as essential.  In speaking to Scout, such ideas become critical:  "Because- he- is- trash, that's why you can't play with him.  I'll not have you around him, picking up his habits and learning Lord knows what.  You're enough of a problem to your father, as it is."  The way in which Scout is to behave in accordance to social expectation and tradition is critical in Aunt Alexandra's characterization.  Aunt Alexandra's obsession with familial pride and reputation is critically important to her character, as well is to Maycomb, in general.

In seeking to impart this condition to Jem and Scout, Aunt Alexandra can be seen as a conformist force in the family. Aunt Alexandra's emphasis on "Old Family" and "Finch Pride" are deliberate responses to Atticus's willingness to upset the social expectations with his defending Tom Robinson.  Whereas Atticus is more concerned with ethical and legal notions of righteousness that are able to challenge notions of conformity in Maycomb, Aunt Alexandra's emphasis on "Old Family" "Finch Pride" can be seen as a countervailing force.  In Chapter 24, Aunt Alexandra reflects such a condition:  "I can't say I approve of everything he does, Maudie, but he's my brother, and I just want to know when this will ever end."  Aunt Alexandra's emphasis on "Old Family" and "Finch Pride" to Jem and Scout is a way to counteract the "scandalous" perception that Atticus's actions evokes out of the folks in Maycomb.

The children, themselves, do not take well to Aunt Alexandra's presence.  Scout is most noticeable as almost a foil to Alexandra's characterization.  Scout describes her Aunt as distant as possible:  "...throughout my early life, she was cold and there."  This ice mountain, "Everest" description is reflective of how the children view Aunt Alexandra.  When Scount wants to play with Walter, it is a reflective of how much a force of denial that Aunt Alexandra represent.  This force of denial and the imposition of how "girls are supposed to act" are elements that Scout is forced to embody. Aunt Alexandra's imposition is countered with  Scout's expression:  "I felt the starched walls of a pink cotton penitentiary closing in on me, and for the second time in my life I thought of running away."  Scout's reaction is distinctive, for it counteracts the external imposition of "Finch Pride" and "Old Family" that is embedded in Alexandra's being.


amysor | Student

Aunt Alexandra is obsessed with Finch Pride, because they have come from a family with a good reputation. She does not want that to be destroyed, because reputation is very important in their society. Associating with someone like the  Ewells is unspeakable because they are considered "white trash". Aunt Alexandra doesn't want them to taint the Finch reputation, as they have built the Finch reputation throughout many generations.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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