To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 23 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
"Aunty," Jem spoke up, "Atticus says you can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family, an' they're still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge 'em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don't."
"That's your father all over again," said Aunt Alexandra, "and I still say that Jean Louise will not invite Walter Cunningham to this house. If he were her double first cousin once removed he would still not be received in this house unless he comes to see Atticus on business. Now that is that." (23.84-85)
Atticus's and Aunt Alexandra's opinions might appear to have switched up a little—Atticus, as Jem quotes him, says that family is something you can't help, while Aunt Alexandra comes down on the side of choice. But in another sense their views haven't changed. Atticus is still concerned with keeping people in the family, while Aunt Alexandra wants to kick out the unworthy.
"Atticus told me one time that most of this Old Family stuff's foolishness because everybody's family's just as old as everybody else's. I said did that include the colored folks and Englishmen and he said yes."
"Background doesn't mean Old Family," said Jem. "I think it's how long your family's been readin' and writin'. Scout, I've studied this real hard and that's the only reason I can think of. Somewhere along when the Finches were in Egypt one of 'em must have learned a hieroglyphic or two and he taught his boy." Jem laughed. "Imagine Aunty being proud her great-grandaddy could read an' write—ladies pick funny things to be proud of." (23.41-42)
Jem and Scout try to come up with a definition of Aunt Alexandra's mysterious term "background." Literacy isn't a bad approach—literacy means education, which means having a certain class and wealth status. But maybe it's just pride, after all. Maybe it's just knowing that you're better than other people, and coming up with justifications for that after the fact.