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Lee uses the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird to establish a tone of cantankerousness, akin to a grumpy old town that has seen better days.
After the description of the Finch family and some of the distinctions of being a Southerner, Scout describes the town of Maycomb.
Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. (ch 1)
In this one sentence, and the ones that follow, Lee establishes a tone of age. Maycomb is almost like a person, and if Maycomb was a person it would be a grumpy old lady. It was hotter then. People moved more slowly. There was nothing to buy and no money to buy it with. Maycomb has seen better days, and it is tired.
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