What do you learn in this chapter about Maycomb, Atticus Finch and his family?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think you are probably referring to chapter 1 since each of these are well described there. If not, you may need to ask your question again, referring to a chapter.

1. Maycomb is described as a tired old town who had just been recently told it had nothing to...

Get
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

I think you are probably referring to chapter 1 since each of these are well described there. If not, you may need to ask your question again, referring to a chapter.

1. Maycomb is described as a tired old town who had just been recently told it had nothing to fear but fear itself. It had dirt roads, a town square and people strolled in and out of the businesses therein at a slow pace. It was warm and sticky.

2. Atticus was a lawyer who helped his brother financially through school and must have been a bit more intelligent than the criminals he defended on average. He had two kids and his wife had passed away.

3. His children were Scout (6) and Jem (10). They were cared for by a black nanny named Calpurnia. We find them to be inquisitive adventurous children in the first chapter.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Through the first three chapters, much is established about Maycomb and the Finches.

Lee's narrative in chapter one establishes Maycomb as a quiet, sleepy town whose residents, like those in many small towns, are privy to the details and affairs of everyone's lives. As Scout describes the Ewells and Walter Cunningham, it is quickly established that even as young child she has a definite sense of the "haves" and "have nots" in her community; she knows that the Ewells are taking advantage of the school and justice systems, and that Walter's family is poor.

As a newcomer and outsider to Maycomb, Miss Caroline has a long way to go before she learns all of the social codes and therefore gains acceptance. Her unfamiliarity with the Cunninghams, the Ewells and the Finches becomes a stigma that is not easily overcome. Her character illuminates the fact that "outsiders" are not entirely welcomed or embraced in Maycomb. This mindset helps explain how later in the book, the white jury will find a black man guilty of a crime he didn't commit against Mayella Ewell.

Also through these chapters we learn that education and literacy are valued in the Finch household - this again alienates Miss Caroline because she instructs Scout to forget what she has learned. Miss Caroline assumes that Atticus has taught Scout poorly, and angers Scout by saying so.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I am assuming that you mean the aftermath of the trial of Tom, Chapter 21.

If so, we learn that Atticus' belief in the justice system is shakable. Despite proof that Tom could not have committed the rape of Mayellla because of his lame arm, the jury overlooks the evidence and votes Tom guilty. The only explanation is racism and it infects the town and their decisions.

As for Jem and Scout, they too become acutely aware of the deep injustice that has been handed down. For the first time, perhaps, they understand that even their good and just father cannot remedy all the wrongs in the world.

Here is a portion of this powerful scene, as the verdict is being read:

"I shut my eyes. Judge Taylor polled the jury: "Guilty...guilty...guilty...guilty..." I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each "guilty" was a separate stab between them."

As stunned as the children are, Calpurnia makes sure they understand that Atticus still deserves the utmost respect. As their father exits the courtroom, she commands: "Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin'."

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on