What is feared in To Kill a Mockingbird's Maycomb (quotes)?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is an underlying fear that pervades much of Maycomb. Scout reveals one aspect in Chapter 1 when she quotes President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who has recently told a nation in the midst of a deep Depression, that

... it had nothing to fear but fear itself.

But there are many other things that cause fear in Maycomb.

  • BOO RADLEY.  He is feared by most of the children and many of the adults in town. He is believed to kill pets and wild animals, peep in windows, and poison pecans.
  • NEGROES.  Many of the white people's racist hatred is based on a fear of the unknown concerning Maycomb's black population who live separately in the Quarters. After the accusation by the Ewells against Tom Robinson, women are worried about other black men who may decide to "... go loose and rape up the countryside..."
  • BOB EWELL.  Atticus has no fear of Bob, but Aunt Alexandra and the children aren't so sure. Alexandra feels Bob may eventually do "something furtive," and Jem tells Atticus plainly that "We're scared for you."
  • ATTICUS FINCH.  Atticus puts fear in the hearts of Maycomb's racist population when he decides to defend Tom. Scout and Jem learn this from a conversation by men at the square who know that Atticus will do his best to earn Tom's acquittal and not provide a half-hearted attempt. Mayella Ewell breaks down in tears more than once in the courtroom, and Judge Taylor gets his answer when he asks

     "What are you scared of?"
     "Him," she sobbed, pointing at Atticus.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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