Aunt Alexandra is Atticus’s sister, and she appears in Maycomb with the intention of guiding the Finch children toward a more traditional way of life. Scout’s behavior is among her primary concerns as she perceives her niece to be too tomboyish, a quality she argues is unbecoming for a Finch woman. With this attitude, Aunt Alexandra attempts to take on the role of a mother figure and joins Calpurnia and Miss Maudie as an influential woman in the children’s lives. Her approach to guiding Scout, however, uniquely focuses on notions of tradition, reputation, and family identity. Aunt Alexandra herself represents tradition in almost every aspect of her character, adhering to a strict definition of femininity and supporting the race- and class-driven hierarchy of Maycomb. She also has a distinct interest in heredity and continually emphasizes the notion that certain traits, or “streaks” as she calls them, inevitably run in every family.
The sense of history and endurance that imbue Aunt Alexandra’s character ultimately put her at odds with Scout, who yearns to maintain her own way of life, as well as Atticus, who struggles to reinforce the limits his sister places on his children’s freedom. This tension within the Finch family ultimately serves as a microcosm for the broader conflict in Maycomb regarding Atticus’s role in Tom Robinson’s trial. Aunt Alexandra, who “[fits] into the world of Maycomb like a hand into a glove,” represents a commitment to the county’s legacy while Atticus and Scout seek to forge a new, more just way of life.
While her strict perspective and domineering attitude make her seem perpetually cold-hearted, Aunt Alexandra does occasionally express concern and sympathy for others. These moments, which include her worry for Atticus’s safety in the aftermath of the trial and the care she provides Jem and Scout after Bob Ewell attacks them, often confuse Scout but ultimately teach her more than her aunt’s outright attempts at imparting wisdom. Aunt Alexandra does genuinely care for her family, and Scout learns that even those who appear the toughest can have a soft side.