What is the function of relating the Finch family history at the outset of the To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The historical background of the founding father of the Finch family in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird helps to establish a history of the area as well as the background and importance of Atticus' standing in the community. It is a classic example of literary exposition, telling the story of Simon Finch and the birth of Finch's Landing, about 20 miles east of Maycomb. Simon's humble beginnings and strong work ethic left him rich, and the homestead was profitable and self-sufficient. Sadly, the Civil War stripped the family of all of its wealth but the land, leaving Atticus and his siblings little but the property that Simon had built from scratch. Atticus moved to Maycomb to make a life--and name--for himself, leaving Finch's Landing to his sister Alexandra. It illustrates Atticus' own independent nature: He sets out on his own to build a family away from the home which would by all rights be his as eldest heir. He becomes a friend of Maycomb's black citizenry in contrast to Simon's own slave-owning past. He works for the people, earning barely enough to support the family, until his reputation among Maycomb townspeople surpasses the heights once enjoyed by Simon Finch himself.

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