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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee
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Scout and Jem have "mixed feelings" about Christmas. What are these feelings and why?

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This is mostly due to the contrasting feelings they have for the family members they spend Christmas with. They spend a week with Uncle Jack and they spend Christmas Day itself with Aunt Alexandra.

Scout and Jem adore Uncle Jack. He is fun, he is eccentric, he tells them stories they love to hear, and he is loving. They look forward to any visit with him and so seeing him for a full week at Christmas is something they really look forward to.

Conversely, Aunt Alexandra is one relative that Scout in particular cannot stand in large doses. Aunt Alexandra herself is very cold, proper, and determined to do things her way and make sure everyone else who does not do them her way knows they are doing whatever it is improperly. Her son is a bit of a bully and Scout does not get along with him either.

Because they celebrate Christmas the exact same way every year, the kids continue to have conflicted feeling about the holiday and how it is celebrated because their relationships with these relatives have remained fairly static over the years.

 

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Scout says that it is the company that keeps her from thoroughly enjoying Christmas.  They go to Finch's landing, where "the fact that Aunty was a good cook was some compensation for being forced to spend a religious holiday with Francis Hancock...[who] enjoyed everything I disapproved of, and disliked my ingenuous diversons."  Scout dislikes Francis so much that she says "he was the most boring child I ever met."  So, that makes Christmas a bit of a bummer to her.  And, that Christmas, Francis and Scout end up getting in a fight, with Scout getting in trouble for it.  So her foreboding regarding Francis, this year at least, was justified.

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The answer to this question can be found in Chapter Nine of To Kill a Mockingbird. According to Scout:

Jem and I viewed Christmas with mixed feelings. The good side was the tree and Uncle Jack Finch...A flip of the coin revealed the uncompromising lineaments of Aunt Alexandra and Francis. (79)

The children love their Uncle Jack, brother to Atticus, and he clearly loves them. Unmarried, and with no children of his own, he shares irreverent jokes with them, but also chastises Scout when she repeatedly says "damn" in his presence. He is clearly an important figure in their lives, and seeing him is one reason why the children look forward to Christmas. On the other hand, Francis, the grandson of Aunt Alexandra, is a source of constant annoyance to Scout, who calls him "boring." Her dislike for Francis proves well-founded. While the two were together at Christmas, Francis repeatedly makes a racist joke (repeating what Aunt Alexandra had said) about Atticus' defense of Tom. Eventually, Scout punches Francis in the face, and when Jack learns why, he is outraged at Francis, and worried for Atticus. 

 

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Scout and Jem have mixed feelings about Christmas for exactly the same reason that many kids/people have mixed feelings about Christmas (including myself).  Scout and Jem love the holiday.  That "Christmas spirit" is working within them.  Presents are exciting, food is good, the tree is pretty, etc.  Scout and Jem like all of that.  

Unfortunately, that is about it regarding the Christmas in the book.  Scout and Jem must spend Christmas at Finch's Landing with their Aunt Alexandra and Uncle Jimmy.  They are not excited about that.  

"No amount of sighing could induce Atticus to let us spend Christmas day at home."

Scout doesn't particularly like spending time with anybody from that family. Aunt Alexandra disapproves of the way Scout behaves; Scout is too much of a tomboy in her opinion.  Scout should be acting much more like a lady.  Uncle Jimmy isn't disapproving, he just doesn't talk . . . to anybody. 

For Scout, the worst part of Christmas at Finch's Landing is having to spend time with her cousin Francis.  He's a brat and a tattle-tale, and he couldn't be more of a polar opposite from Scout if he tried.  His favorite Christmas presents are things like a book bag, bow ties, and shirts—all pointless in Scout's opinion.  Scout summarizes Francis like this:

"Talking to Francis gave me the sensation of setting slowly to the bottom of the ocean. He was the most boring child I ever met."

Scout and Jem love the holiday, just not the family they have to spend it with. I'm sure many people have felt that before.

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Jem and Scout love seeing their Uncle Jack, the Christmas tree, and eating Aunt Alexandra's cooking, but that's about it when it came time to spend the holiday at Finch's Landing.

     No amount of sighing could induce Atticus to let us spend Christmas day at home.

Scout dreaded the thought of dealing with her aunt and uncle and, particularly, her cousin, Francis. Uncle Jimmy never had a thing to say to Scout; in fact, he had only spoken to her once, telling her to "Get off the fence." Jimmy rarely spoke to Alexandra, either, and he preferred fishing to talking or working. As for Aunt Alexandra, Scout often wondered if she had been "swapped at birth." She was like Mount Everest:

... she was cold and there.

Cousin Francis, Alexandra's grandson, was the worst of all. A precocious brat, Francis was a bit of a dandy: Two years older than Scout, he was smaller, and he was excited about the Christmas presents he had asked for and received: knee-pants, a book bag, a bow tie and five shirts. They were quite a contrast to the air rifles and chemistry set that Jem and Scout received.

     Talking to Francis gave me the sensation of setting slowly to the bottom of the ocean. He was the most boring child I ever met.

He proved to be a tattletale and a sneak, and when he deliberately insulted Atticus and angered Scout by calling them both a "nigger-lover," Scout promptly

... split my knuckle to the bone on his front teeth. 

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