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In the novel, does the town of Maycomb change its ways after Atticus' efforts?

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mad-sputnik | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 7, 2009 at 9:40 AM via web

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In the novel, does the town of Maycomb change its ways after Atticus' efforts?

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ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted January 7, 2009 at 10:17 AM (Answer #1)

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No, I don't think the town or the people of Macomb change very much at all.  This is a southern town, tradition is everything and if they don't change then they believe that they can continue on just as they are.  I often think the town I live in now is not much different from Maycomb.  They haven't changed much and don't want to change.  These small rural communities are so proud of where they "come from" that they don't want to move forward.  

"In the events of To Kill a Mockingbird the whole town of Maycomb loses any prior semblance of innocence. In the opening pages of the book Scout describes the town as “an old town.” Steeped in tradition and cocooned in the apparent safety of a network of social rules (written and unwritten), life seems predictable and unchanging. The alleged rape of Mayella Ewell begins a series of events which challenge the very fabric of the town. Old notions of right and wrong are challenged. The town is exposed to the reader as being far from innocent, but rather a town riddled with bigotry, hatred and injustice."

"Although the town (and the South) are places of tradition and ingrained habits, where the past often determines the present, the potential for progressive change resides in at least some enlightened people."

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted January 7, 2009 at 10:36 AM (Answer #2)

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There is no real way of knowing whether "the town of Maycomb" changes its ways as a result, but we can certainly look at the actions of a few of its members after the trial to get some idea of the answer. First, the women at the ladies' meetings can, perhaps, be considered good representatives of the town. As Scout helps at the party in Chapter 24, she observes the facade of the women pretending to be concerned with Africa while talking down to their own servants and saying things like "there's nothing more distracting than a sulky darky" and "we can educate 'em till we're blue in the face . . . but there's no lady safe in her bed these nights" (232). Then there are the prison guards who kill Tom Robinson. "They fired a few shots in the air, then to kill. . . . Seventeen bullet holes in him. They didn't have to shoot him that much" (235). Their reactions can be taken to show that they most certainly have not changed. But on the flip side, there is a real change in Boo Radley who leaves his home to save Jem and Scout from a murderous Ewell. I'm afraid that aside from Atticus and family (as well as a few select others), Lee doesn't leave us with a very positive image of the world. Suddenly we hear the voice of Jem echo, "I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time . . . it's because he wants to stay inside" (227). But then again, perhaps the change of a few is just enough to save our world.

Noelle Thompson

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