To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis

Harper Lee

Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis

Unbeknownst to Jem and Scout, Atticus has arranged for Aunt Alexandra to come live with them indefinitely, so that Scout can have some "feminine influence" in her life. Aunt Alexandra leaves her own husband and son behind, but this seems not to bother her at all, really. She fits right in with the women in Maycomb, especially people like Miss Stephanie Crawford, and immediately begins asserting her social dominance. She declares that one poor teenager's suicide is a result of his family's "morbid streak," as opposed to the Funny, Drinking, and Gambling streaks that other families have. That Scout and Jem don't believe in Aunt Alexandra's "Streak" theory causes a bit of tension in the household.

Aunt Alexandra shows Scout and Jem a book written by their Cousin Joshua, who, according to Atticus, went crazy in college and tried to kill the president. When Jem relates this last part back to Aunt Alexandra, she gets huffy and questions whether the children understand how important their heritage is. This leads to an uncomfortable scene where Atticus tries to impress upon them that they're the product of "gentle breeding," though they both know that this isn't really how he feels. He jokes that maybe he's going crazy, too, in an attempt to put Scout and Jem at ease. This is only moderately successful.

Allusion

William Wyatt Bibb (1781 - 1820). A US Senator and the first Governor of Alabama. Scout alludes to Bibb when she explains how, when the Governor sent a team of surveyors to Maycomb, a clever tavern owner by the name of Sinkfield got the surveyors drunk and convinced them to draw their lines in a shape favorable to Sinkfield and, thus, to Maycomb.

Meditations of Joshua S. St. Clair. This is a fake book written by Scout's Cousin Joshua. Aunt Alexandra presents it to Scout in the hopes of interesting her in the Finch family heritage. This backfires.

Reconstruction Era (1865 - 1877). A period directly following the end of the American Civil War, when there was a concerted effort to rebuild the South, first by enforcing the end of slavery and then by reintegrating the South into the Union, ensuring that there would be no more internal conflict. Many Southerners believed the Civil War destroyed their way of life, and this Reconstruction Era brought many "great" families to ruin. As a result, Maycomb grew smaller and more insular, becoming the "tired old town" that Scout described in the first chapter.

The War Between the States (1861 - 1865). Another name for the American Civil War. Though this name was rarely used during the years of fighting, it became popular afterward as former secessionists attempted to avoid the word "civil," which implied that there was fighting between two parts of the United States rather than between the Union and the recently seceded (and, therefore, autonomous) Confederacy. Today, we refer to this war primarily as the Civil War.

Hyperbole

One example of this would be when Scout says Sinkfield owned a tavern at the "dawn of time," meaning that it was ages ago, in her mind. This is yet another example of Scout being unable to understand the subtleties of time and assuming that anything that didn't happen recently is part of the ancient past.

Idiom

One example of this would be when Jem says Cousin Joshua "went around the bend," as in, went crazy and tried to assassinate the President.

Simile

Scout uses a simile when she says Aunt Alexandra fit in "like a hand into a glove."

Themes

Heritage. Of the Finches, Aunt Alexandra is the only one who's truly interested in their heritage. She wants to impress upon Scout and Jem just how genteel and well-bred they are, and so she shows them a very important-looking book written by their Cousin Joshua. This backfires on her, however, and Jem and Scout end up getting a very uncomfortable lecture from Atticus because of it. Scout has, by virtue of her narrative, become a keeper of their family's heritage, but not of the heritage Aunt Alexandra has selectively edited for the public record. Scout tells the reader everything, even and perhaps especially if it's embarrassing.

History. Related to the theme of heritage is the theme of history, which takes a much broader view of the past. Despite not seeming particularly interested in either history or heritage as a child, Scout has become a de facto historian who relates both the public and personal history of Maycomb for the reader's edification.