Friday, September 3, 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird: Aunt Alexandra Stands for Family

You might decry my decision to include Aunt Alexandra in this journal about displaying some measure of courage and learning to walk in the shoes of another man. After all, Alexandra is blind to her own grandchild, a little bully who cries foul when his name-calling incites Scout. Alexandra further offends Scout by calling Walter Cunningham “trash” and refusing to allow him to visit the Finch home. Her father Atticus set a better example for Scout by welcoming Walter to the noon table.

Critical of Atticus’ parenting, Alexandra tries to send Calpurnia away, requires Scout to dress like a lady, and demands that Atticus instruct his children in the proud Finch ancestry. Alexandra clings to the class divide as a man caught in a swift current clings to anything that floats. She finds comfort in hypocritical gatherings of small town church ladies who worry about the poor tribesmen in Africa while disenfranchising and impoverishing African-Americans at home. She gossips with the neighbors, Miss Stephanie Crawford in particular.

What, then, could possibly redeem Aunt Alexandra?

In spite of her sentiments, when Atticus needs her, she comes. In spite of her own opinions, she worries about the price that Atticus must pay for defending Tom Robinson. In spite of all else, she stands up for family. Although Aunt Alexandra falls far short of Miss Maudie Atkinson, her peer in age and upbringing, Alexandra confides in Miss Maudie, saying “'I can't say I approve of everything he does, Maudie, but he's my brother.’” Family, I think we all agree, is worth standing up for, and Aunt Alexandra stands up for family.

Atticus stands up for the family of man when he defends Tom Robinson. Miss Maudie stands up for Atticus, helping Jem understand the quality of his father’s courage. Alexandra, flawed and petty, stands up for Atticus.

Soldiers, fire fighters, police officers, and ordinary citizens stand up for the family of man when they defend its borders, its principles, its property, and its ability to endure. Tell me about the people you know who stand up for the family of man.