When she is insulted by foot-washing Baptists for gardening, she quotes the Bible right back at them and wears a “grin of the uttermost wickedness”. She is a strong female figure Scout respects and trusts for advice, unlike other ladies in the town, who spend their time discussing others’ lives and problems.Scout confides in her and values her opinions, and Miss Maudie is almost a mother figure in Scout’s life. Scout reflects upon her relationship with Miss Maudie, saying, “She had an acid tongue in her head” but “Jem and I had considerable faith in Miss Maudie” as “she was our friend”.
While being optimistic and kind, Miss Maudie is not afraid to voice her beliefs or move against the tide of popular opinion. At a ladies’ tea, she is upset by the women being intolerant and racist towards their black help, and snaps at one of the women complaining about her cook.Scout recollects that, “When Miss Maudie was angry her brevity was icy. Something had made her deeply angry, and her grey eyes were as cold as her voice”. Miss Maudie is disgusted by the prejudiced opinions of people, and does not subscribe to them. She also supports Scout and helps her to stand up against forces that try to push Scout into stereotypical assumptions and judgments about others.
In contrast to Miss Maudie, Scout’s Aunt Alexandra represents the ideal Southern family-oriented woman. She is at the other end of the spectrum, with her conventional beliefs and constant disapproval of Scout’s tomboyish behavior. She complains about Scout wearing overalls to Atticus who is frustrated by her frequent criticism, and Scout describes the exchange as “The only time I ever heard Atticus speak sharply to anyone”.Scout does not understand her Aunt’s obsession with her clothing. Aunt Alexandra repeatedly tells her that she cannot be a lady if she does not dress like one, and that she should engage in more ‘girly’ activities. Aunt Alexandra also says that as a girl, Scout should “be a ray of sunshine” in Atticus’s life, reinforcing the patriarchal expectation that all girls must be positive and happy continuously and brighten up the lives of their husbands or fathers.She enforces this and tries to get Scout to conform to gender roles despite seeing how resistant she is to them. She takes part in all the ‘right activities’, such as hosting missionary circles, joining clubs and gossiping with a passion.
She is portrayed as judgmental and is quick to create prejudices in her mind about others. Scout reflects up on her Aunt’s attitude and says, “When Aunt Alexandra went to school, self-doubt could not be found in any textbook, so she knew not its meaning”. Aunt Alexandra takes it upon herself to exert a ‘feminine influence’ on Scout’s life as she grows, and Scout resents her interference. She does not support or guide Scout as Miss Maudie does, and tries to make her change. While Scout tries to remain indifferent towards her Aunt and her efforts, at a point in the novel, she begins to respect her. When dealing with a crisis during her ladies’ tea, Aunt Alexandra regains her composure and handles it gracefully, resulting in Scout remarking, “If Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I”.
As we watch Scout mature and gain a deeper understanding of the adult world, we see how her environment influences her opinions. The roles of Miss Maudie and Aunt Alexandra are the most significant in Scout’s upbringing and perspective of the world. To Kill a Mockingbird covers several themes that are challenging and often uncomfortable to encounter and explore, such as racism and loss of innocence.