With respect to the town of Maycomb in To Kill a Mockingbird, what mood results from the tone through word choice and selection of detail ?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narration of To Kill a Mockingbird is given in retrospect, a look into the rear-view mirror of memory that often diminishes things. The tone is one of nostalgia and a certain melancholy in which the word choice of an innocent child is often used to connote the remembrances of young Scout, who views life as contained in the neighborhood, the courthouse, and surroundings of her town.

Details of Scout's life begin with her childish belief in a "haint" in the neighborhood, her insensitivity toward Walter Cunningham, whom Jem invites for lunch, the antics of Mr. Avery, the fright of encountering Mr. Nathan Radley, her endearing respect for Miss Maudie and resentment of the ghostly Mrs. Dubose--"an oppressive odor met us when we crossed the threshold"--, the naive, but lucid observance of Tom Robinson's trial--

As Tom Robinson gave his testimony, it came to me that Mayella Ewell must have been the loneliest person in the world. She was even lonelier than Boo Radley who had not been out of his house in twenty-five years--

and the biased accounts of her extended family and quizzical observations of her pubescent brother, but becalmed notice of her father,

I sometimes think Atticus subjected every crisis of his life to tranquil examination behind The Mobile Register, The Birmingham News, and The Montgomery Advertiser

Through Scout, the reader is taken back to a sultry Southern town lost in an era of Jim Crow and slow-moving life. No one different comes in to this town, and no one departs; in fact, Scout describes the citizens as resembling each other, and there being a caste system in Maycomb which she interprets,

...to my mind it worked this way: the older citizens, the present generation of people who had lived side by side for years and years, were utterly predictable to one another; they took for granted attitudes, character shadings; even gestures, as having been repeated in each generation and refined by time. Thus the dicta No Crawford Minds His Own Business, Every Third Merriweather is Morbid....

Because Scout is a child and ingenuous observer, it is left to the reader to pass his/her own judgments upon the characters and the town of Maycomb in To Kill a Mockingbird amid Scout's observant, but somewhat nostalgic look back. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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