Author Harper Lee set her story in the fictional town of Maycomb, located in southern Alabama. She based the town on her own home of Monroeville, Alabama in which she grew up. Atticus is based on Lee's attorney father, and Dill is based on the writer Truman Capote, who came to visit in Monroeville each summer. Maycomb is located near the Alabama River and is the county seat of Maycomb County. The Finch family hailed from Finch's Landing, founded by the family patriarch, Simon Finch, during the 1800s; the family homestead where Atticus's sister, Alexandra, still resides, is located twenty miles west of Maycomb. Scout describes Maycomb as "a tired old town," with dirt-clay streets that "turned to red slop" when it rained. Summers were hot, and during the Depression,
... there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy, and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County.
The Finches "lived on the main residential street in town," about 10 houses south of the courthouse square. Because the town is so small, Atticus rarely drives his car, preferring to walk to his office in the Maycomb Bank building each day. Everyone knows each other, and the only strangers in Maycomb are the rare visitors who pass through town. Most of the town's businesses are located around the square, as is the county jail. Miss Rachel Haverford (Dill's aunt) lives next door, and Miss Maudie Atkinson and Miss Stephanie Crawford live across the street. The Radley House, home of the mysterious Boo, is situated three houses to the south, and the local high school sits adjacent to the Radley property. Maycomb's Negro population lives further south, outside the city limits in the Quarters, and the Ewell's live nearby, adjacent to the dump.
To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in a small town in Maycomb County, Alabama in the 1930's.
This is significant to the plot because the attitudes toward blacks at that time were that they were on the lowest rung of society's caste system. Tom Robinson, at that time, would have been no better than an animal to some who lived in a tiny Southern town.
The Great Depression was taking place during the 30's. Times were hard for everyone. Tensions ran high everywhere. Accusing Tom of a crime would have been the easiest thing to do.
If it wasn't for the marvelous legal skills, people skills, and the respect townspeople had for Atticus Finch, Tom would have been found guilty