In To Kill a Mockingbird, how can the identity of the town of Maycomb best be described, and what does this community fear?
Maycomb is a town in which the old is preserved because it is revered--rightly or wrongly. Its geographic location is a telling metaphor for this characteristic: Maycomb is set away from the river, making access difficult. As a result, Maycomb has
remained the same size for a hundred years, an island in a patchwork sea of cotton fields and timberland.
One harmless example of this tenacious preserving of what was is that the pillars of the original courthouse adorn the conflicting style of the Victorian replacement of the fire-destroyed original. A far less harmless and, indeed, to some, overtly harmful example is the preeminence given to any one who is of a white ethnicity--even someone like Bob Ewell, "the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations"--over any one who is descended of an African ethnicity--even someone as admired and respected as Tom Robinson.
The basic and essential fear of Maycomb in relation to this descriptive characteristic is that the foundation of the revered antiquity of the past may be shattered and the disturbing reality of the present may cause a revolution in the old way of living, of doing things, and of being as Maycomb is made up of "a people determined to preserve every physical scrap of the past."