Children look up to their elders for wisdom and advice. They rely on someone experienced and with authority for guidance on how to live their lives. However, sometimes the people who are accountable for youth mislead them; they may have good intentions, but are not mature enough to exemplify their values and morals, or they simply are ignorant. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Aunt Alexandra plays a negative role: she is a proper, southern lady with a strict code of behaviour and etiquette, but is too closed-minded and obstreperous to change her ways or view the world from others’ perspectives. Calpurnia takes on the position of a positive role model by disciplining the children in the Finch household. Miss Maudie takes on the role of a motherly companion, who shares warmth and words of wisdom with Jem and Scout Finch.
Aunt Alexandra is a negative influence on Jem and Scout. She is a refined lady with great knowledge about good conduct, and tries to impose this especially on Scout in ways that are unsuccessful and even hazardous to her growth and self esteem. She is strongly opposed to Scout’s attire which consists of overalls and pants, and demands that she act lady-like by changing into a skirt or dress. She is making Scout conform to the ideal vision of a stereotypical girl in the Nineteen-Thirties, which gives Scout a message that her individuality is unacceptable.
“Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches…” (Lee, 81).
Aunt Alexandra’s scathing presence is further revealed in the novel where her aversion to black people is evident. She dislikes Calpurnia and bosses her around, and thinks that Atticus defending Tom Robinson is shameful to the family:
“‘…he’s turned out a nigger-lover we’ll never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb… he’s ruinin’ the family –’”. (Lee, 83)
Aunt Alexandra is inimical towards people such as Walter Cunningham as well, who are less fortunate and therefore perceived as repugnant and unfit to be her niece’s playmate.
“‘…you can scrub Walter Cunningham till he shines, you can put him in shoes and a suit, but he’ll never be like Jem…Because–he–is–trash.” (Lee, 224–225).
These words indicate not only a vituperative nature, but arrogance and obstinacy. She believes white people are better than black people. She refuses to consider anything positive about people she finds reprehensible; she is steadfast on her opinions about people and would rather not get to know them. She is also quite domineering and officious; she often meddles with Atticus’ fatherly role:
“‘…it’s bad enough he lets you all run wild…’” (Lee, 83), “Aunt Alexandra put him up to this…” (Lee, 134).
This grandiloquence is a manifestation of hypocrisy in the novel because her behaviour towards others is atrocious, yet she expects the best manners from Scout.
Calpurnia is a much more positive caregiver, as she is a strict disciplinarian, but to a lesser degree...