Aunt Alexandra in To Kill a Mockingbird: Character Analysis & Quotes

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  • 0:01 The Boss of Everyone
  • 0:34 Who Is Aunt Alexandra?
  • 1:29 Aunt Alexandra vs. Scout
  • 2:40 Aunt Alexandra and…
  • 3:42 Aunt Alexandra Deep Down
  • 4:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor
Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Expert Contributor
Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

She's bossy. She's proper. She's the picture of a perfect Southern lady. She's Aunt Alexandra. This lesson explores and analyzes the character of Aunt Alexandra in 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'

The Boss of Everyone

Take a moment to think about your family, or even your closest friends. Is there a person who stands out for being bossy? So bossy that you can hardly say or do anything without suffering all sorts of criticisms or advice? If so, it sounds like you may just have your very own Aunt Alexandra. Who is Aunt Alexandra, you ask? She's a character in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and though she's bossy, there's a lot more to her than that. Let's dive in and analyze her character and what she means to everyone else in the story.

Who Is Aunt Alexandra?

Alexandra Finch Hancock, otherwise known as Aunt Alexandra, is the formidable matriarch of the Finch family. She is the sister of Atticus Finch and aunt to Scout (the book's narrator) and Jem. Aunt Alexandra lives at Finch's Landing, the family homestead, with her husband Jimmy. According to Scout, Jimmy is a quiet man who largely stays out of Aunt Alexandra's way. This is a very smart idea, because Aunt Alexandra likes to have both her say and her way when it comes to most matters.

We first meet Aunt Alexandra when Scout, Jem, Atticus, and Uncle Jack pay a Christmas visit to the Landing. Scout does a pretty good job of painting a clear picture of Aunt Alexandra before the holiday encounter, but Aunt Alexandra far surpasses expectations. She has plenty to say about how Scout behaves and how Atticus is raising her, leading her to eventually move in with their family in Maycomb.

Aunt Alexandra vs. Scout

One of the biggest sources of conflict for Scout is her relationship with her aunt. Aunt Alexandra is everything a Southern woman should be: she's poised and well-mannered, not to mention a stickler for prim and proper fashion. Even in the crippling heat and humidity of the Deep South, Aunt Alexandra still applies aggressive amounts of makeup and insists on wearing a corset.

Scout, on the other hand, is a tomboy through and through. This fact leads Aunt Alexandra to wage all-out war on Scout's boyish and often wild ways:

'Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches, when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn't supposed to do things that required pants. Aunt Alexandra's vision of my deportment involved playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl necklace she gave me when I was born; furthermore, I should be a ray of sunshine in my father's lifeā€¦'

Aunt Alexandra does her absolute best (or worst, if you ask Scout!) to convert her niece into a 'proper' young lady. Their near-constant conflict emphasizes just how strict and rigid Aunt Alexandra is compared to Scout.

Aunt Alexandra and Family Breeding

Aunt Alexandra considers the family's dignity and image to be her responsibility; after all, she is the matriarch! She's a lifelong resident of Maycomb County and seemingly knows everything about everyone in town. She can speak to why a certain person or family acts or behaves a certain way. It all comes down to one underlying factor: family breeding.

Scout shares with the readers, 'Aunt Alexandra was of the opinion, obliquely expressed, that the longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was.' Following this line of reasoning, Aunt Alexandra considered the Finch family to be very fine. This meant that as a fine family, the Finches were held to a higher standard than other families in Maycomb, a point that she tries to emphasize to Scout with regards to her friend Walter.

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Additional Activities

Family Holiday Letter

In this activity, students will take on the persona of Aunt Alexandra to write a family update letter in the style of a traditional holiday letter.

Students should write a letter in Aunt Alexandra's voice to distant relatives to update them on all that has been happening in the lives of the Finch family members in Maycomb County.

Sections of the Letter

The letter should include a section that reviews all aspects of the Finch family and the events of the year in which the story takes place. Specifically, students should focus on:

  • How Aunt Alexandra feels about Scout.
    • What does she wish for Scout?
    • What evidence do we have for how she feels about Scout?
  • Aunt Alexandra's feelings on family breeding.
    • This section should include some examples of Aunt Alexandra's feelings about her own family and other Maycomb County families.
  • A reflection section in which Aunt Alexandra 'gets real with' her readers and is very open about how she feels deep down.
    • Use examples from the book to support information used in this section.

Examples

Students should remember to write in Aunt Alexandra's voice. Here are a few examples of what might be included in the letter.

  • That Scout sure is a handful. I just don't know why her daddy lets her dress the way she does. It just isn't right for a young girl to go around like she does.
  • You know Maycomb County is great at being the same. It seems like you can tell which child belongs to which family just by watching the young'un behave. Family breeding can be seen as clear as day in everyone.
  • You may not know this, but I really do love Atticus and Scout, not just because they are family, but because I'm proud of what they do and what they go through to follow their beliefs.

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