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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Why do Scout and Aunt Alexandra in "To Kill a Mockingbird" have poor communication?

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Scout and Aunt Alexandra communicate poorly with one another because they look at the world through two different sets of lenses. Aunt Alexandra is a very conventional Southern women. Upon moving into the household, she immediately gets involved in Maycomb society and is completely accepted by the other women as one of them. Like them, she believes one's family ancestry is all-important, and she values remembering and honoring dead relatives. She believes people derive their status in society from their family background.

Scout, however, has been raised by the unconventional Atticus, who puts little store in ancestors and blood stock. He believes that it is the way an individual lives his or her life that determines a person's worth. When Aunt Alexandra becomes shocked that Scout does not know or value her predecessors, Atticus tries to have a talk with Scout and Jem about honoring their blood lines—and fails miserably. The children know he does not mean it, and the conversation ends in comedy.

Because she is so conventional, Aunt Alexandra is also sexist and racist. She wants Scout to act like a little lady, which Scout has no interest in doing. Aunt Alexandra also tries to diminish Calpurnia's influence on Scout because Calpurnia is black. This is something Scout cannot understand, as she honors and respects Calpurnia as a person. Scout reflects Atticus's values, which are different from the norm, and this leads to communication problems.

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Aunt Alexandra and Scout communicate poorly with each other for several reasons. Scout is a child and often misinterprets many of her aunt's comments and gestures. Aunt Alexandra expects Scout to act feminine and be interested in typical female social conventions. Scout is a tomboy, and Aunt Alexandra views her with contempt for her lifestyle. They have little in common between them, and Alexandra tends to ignore Scout. Scout mentions that she can never think of anything to say to Alexandra, which is the reason her aunt thinks that she is sluggish. Alexandra is highly critical of Scout, and most of their conversations involve Alexandra chastizing Scout for her behavior or attire. Scout feels nervous being around her aunt because she is uncertain of how to act like a "Southern Belle." Scout compares her aunt to Mount Everest by saying, "throughout my early life, she was cold and there." (Lee 103) As Scout matures, she gains perspective and begins to understand her aunt.

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