To Kill a Mockingbird
When the children and Calpurnia return from church they find that Aunt Alexandra,
their father's sister has arrived for an extended visit. Aunt Alexandra is determined
to make over Scout into a proper young lady, a prospect Scout views with horror.
She also talks constantly about the importance of family background and "gentle
breeding." Atticus lets the children know that he thinks Aunt Alexandra's
snobbish pride in her ancestors is evidence of a twisted sense of values. He even
tells them that the ancestor of whom Alexandra is most proud was nothing but a
"sewer-inspector" who went crazy and tried to assassinate the president.
Nevertheless, Atticus insists that the children do their best to make
Aunt Alexandra feel welcome. This is in part just one more proof of Atticus'
willingness to tolerate the peculiarities and faults of others. But there
is another reason for his attitude. Atticus knows that Alexandra's visit
is a sign that she is taking his side against those who criticize him
for defending Tom Robinson. So in this sense perhaps Aunt Alexandra's
belief in the importance of family is not such a bad thing after all.
Alexandra does not really understand why her brother is taking the side
of a black man who is charged with being a dangerous criminal, but she
will not turn her back on a relative in his time of need.
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