What conversation between Jem and Scout establishes setting in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Several conversations between Jem and Scout in the opening chapters of To Kill a Mockingbirdhelp establish the setting of the story. In Chapter 1, Jem and Scout meet Dill for the first time. In the very first conversation with Dill, several historically accurate details point to the time and place of the novel.

First, we find out that Dill is from Meridian, MS, which cannot be geographically too far from Maycomb County. Dill then reveals that a recent movie he has seen is Draculawhich was a film in 1931.

Further evidence that points toward historical setting comes in Chapter two, when Jem and Scout are talking about school. Jem warns Scout that "school's different" (16) and later describes a "new way of teaching," which he later reveals is the "Dewey Decimal System" (18). Though this conversation is meant to be humorous and likely Jem doesn't know exactly what he is talking about, what he reveals is a glimpse into educational changes taking place in the 1930s. Even in the small town of Maycomb, there was not a one-room school house. There are distinguished grades, and educated teachers were brought in from outside with a uniform system of teaching that clearly does not work as well in Scout's first grade classroom as it is meant to.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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