But Maycomb is changing, and it is hard for Jean Louise to reconcile her past recollections of Maycomb with her present perception of the town. One change that Jean Louise has already had to grapple with is the death of her older brother, Jem, who passed away suddenly of heart failure in his early twenties. Jean Louise had always looked up to Jem, and Henry had been Jem’s best friend. Henry is now like a son to Atticus. Henry is Atticus’s junior partner in his law firm, a role Jem would have most likely fulfilled had he lived. Jean Louise and Henry seem to have grown closer through their bond over the loss of a person they both deeply loved.
Another person with whom Jean Louise has a complicated relationship is her aunt, Alexandra. Jean Louise and Alexandra have butted heads ever since Jean Louise was a child. Alexandra knows just how to say the one thing that is guaranteed to get on Jean Louise’s nerves, and Jean Louise can’t stop herself from snapping back. Jean Louise knows that she’s not the proper Southern belle that Alexandra presents as an ideal model of womanhood, and she deliberately presses Alexandra’s buttons by wearing modern clothing and asserting her independence.
Jean Louise and Alexandra aren’t completely antagonistic, however. Jean Louise recognizes that Alexandra has had to fill the role of wife and daughter as well as sister in Atticus’s life. Atticus’s wife died when Jean Louise was very young, and Jean Louise doesn’t return to Maycomb after college, so when Jem dies, Atticus is essentially alone. Alexandra is also somewhat alone in the world. She is essentially unmarried, since she is estranged from her husband and hasn’t spoken to him in fifteen years. She also does not have a close relationship with her son. So Alexandra has entered the Finch family partly because she and Atticus both lack companionship. Even though Jean Louise doesn’t agree with Alexandra most of the time, blood ties run deep, and they do care about each other a great deal.
The person who seems to be the one rock-solid foundation in Jean Louise’s life is her father, Atticus Finch. Growing up, Jean Louise always relied on her father for moral and emotional guidance. Recently, her father’s arthritis has weakened him physically, but he still works every day in his law practice, and his mind seems as sharp as ever. Jean Louise thinks of Atticus as her anchor: as long as she can count on him to be her moral compass, everything else will sort itself out.