In To Kill a Mockingbird, how does the narrator describe her hometown?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Maycomb, Alabama, of To Kill a Mockingbird is modeled after Harper Lee's hometown of Monroe, Alabama, in the southern part of the state. In fact, it was the courthouse of Monroe that was used in the movie version of the novel, and a re-staging of the trial is done every year at this courthouse that sits in the middle of town. Maycomb is a sleepy town in which people are from old families, and people know one another. When Miss Caroline comes as a new teacher, she is held in suspicion because she is from Winston County, which is in the northern part of the state; moreover, Winston County, unlike the rest of Alabama, did not secede from the Union during the Civil War.

In Chapter 13, Scout tells her readers that Maycomb has "a caste system." The Finches are descended from land and slave owners, so they are among the "old names":

Aunt Alexandra was one of the last of her kind: she had river-boat, boarding-school manners; let any moral come along and she would uphold it; she was born in the objective case; she was an incurable gossip. When Aunt Alexandra went to school, self-doubt could not be found in any textbook, so she knew not its meaning.

Others who rank with the Finches are Mrs. Merriweather, Miss Maudie, Mrs. Dubose, and Judge Taylor; just slightly below the Finches are the businessmen such as Mr. Atwood, who owns the paper and Link Deas, and the Sheriff Heck Tate is also respectable.

Then, there is the disgraced Dolphus Raymond, a fallen gentleman who lives with blacks. The Cunninghams and others of "Old Sarum" in the countryside are poor, but possessing a certain dignity. For, Mr. Cunningham also pays Atticus although it is with food or some commodity.

The "disgrace of Maycomb for three generations" are the Ewells. Considered white trash by the Maycomb community, the Ewells live in a shotgun shack out by the dump. A drunkard and "ne'er do well," Ewell has no ambition to improve his life, or the lives of his eight motherless children. He does, however, consider himself better than any black person.

At the far end of town is the black community.

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