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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, what are the ten things Scout learned about becoming a young lady?

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It is Aunt Alexandra who teaches Scout about becoming a young lady. By exposing her to female society gatherings in Maycomb County, she feels that she is doing her a service by teaching her the following qualities:

1. grace

2. femininity

3. charm

4. manners

5. social interaction

6. conversational skills

7. daintiness

8. wit/intellectual sharpness

9. societal norms and standards

10. conformity

These 10 lessons are all encompassed in the times that Aunt Alexandra spends with Scout (whom she calls Jean Louise among the proper ladies of Maycomb). By preparing Scout for a life as a proper southern lady, Aunt Alexandra fails to recognize her individuality and personality, two qualities that Atticus both loves and encourages.

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It was Aunt Alexandra who was obsessed with turning Scout into a proper young lady. According to Alexandra, a young lady would not swear, fight, get dirty, or wear overalls. She would wear nice dresses and refrain from any activity that she could not accomplish while wearing a dress. Furthermore, she would spend her leisure time "playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl necklace" Alexandra had given her. Alexandra believed that to be a young lady, Scout should remember her family heritage and live up to the Finch name. She was to welcome guests in a polite manner.

Scout rebelled in most of these admonishments, but it was her aunt who did teach her a very genuine lesson in being a young lady, ironically without even intending to do it. During the meeting of Alexandra's Missionary Circle, word came that Tom Robinson had been shot to death at the prison. This was too much for Alexandra, whose women friends had spent a fair part of the meeting criticizing Atticus in honeyed tones for his defense of Tom. Alexandra knew how deeply the injustice of Tom's conviction and his death hurt Atticus. She was sick of having him held in contempt by the town for doing what he knew was right. She was angry and bitter, very emotionally upset, breaking down in the kitchen while her guests waited in the living room. Despite her feelings, however, Alexandra carried on as if nothing were wrong. This required courage and self-restraint, and Alexandra's conduct was not lost on Scout. Back in the living room with the ladies, Scout took her cue from Alexandra, picked up a tray of cookies, and served them to the guests with her "best company manners." According to Scout, "After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I."

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