How does the author use descriptive language and other literary devices to create the setting in "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting in this novel is the town of Maycomb in the state of Alabama.  In order for the reader to understand the workings of this community, Lee uses many devices to bring this town alive.  In the first few pages, she uses allusions to let readers know that the history of the south and southern pride is important to the community:

"... it really began with Andrew Jackson.  If General Jackson hadn't run the Creeks up the creek, Simon Finch would never have paddled up the Alabama, and where would we be...?.... Being Southerners, it was a source of shame to some members of the family that we had no recorded ancestors on either side of the Battle of Hastings."

Readers understand quickly that, although this book takes place 70 years after the Civil War, the history is a part of their lives - so much a part that a six year old narrator is familiar with the details.

Then, Lee uses personification to bring the town alive, talking about it as if it were a person by calling it "tired".  She uses imagery and other sensory language to create a feel about this character

"In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square.  Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer's day..."

Words like "slop" and "sagged" suggest texture and motion, which add to the feeling that the town is alive and breathing.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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