Please describe Maycomb, Alabama, in the first seven chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The best description of Maycomb to be found in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is the one Scout gives us in the first chapter of the novel:

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. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum. People moved slowly then. They ambled across the square, shuffled in and out of the stores around it, took their time about everything. A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County. But it was a time of vague optimism for some of the people: Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself.

Scout is writing this as an adult looking back at her hometown, and it is a place she loves, though she is aware of its faults. The characters in the town are much like those in any small town. They play together, they help their neighbors when necessary, and they take care of their own;however, they gossip, they are judgmental, and they are hypocritical. A typical small town.

Some people here are relatively rich (no one is truly rich) while others are unspeakably poor, and money and religion are not indicators of class or character. 

The one added element of this town is that it is a southern town at a time of great prejudice and racism. While the white folks are happy to hire black men and women to work for them, most of the white folks see color as some kind of disease. '

Despite these things, it is possible for two young children, Jem and Scout, to grow up in Maycomb knowing right from wrong and how to make a difference in their world. 

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