What are the general beliefs of the people of Maycomb at the beginning of To Kill a Mockingbird (Chapters 1-10 range)?

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

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Outsiders.  Many of the characters in the early chapters are considered outsiders by the tight-knit community. The Cunninghams of Old Sarum are "an enormous and confusing tribe domiciled in the northern part of the county." The Radleys are considered outsiders because they keep their doors and shutters "closed on Sundays, another thing alien to Maycomb's ways." Miss Caroline's students question her qualifications, since she hails from Winston County in Northern Alabama--a place with many "peculiarities indigenous to that region" and where "persons of no background" live. There is a general belief that there is

... nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County.  (Chapter 1)

Racism.  Racism will raise its ugly head later in the novel, but we learn that Negroes are segregated in the Quarters, and that Atticus is considered a "nigger-lover" for his decision to defend Tom Robinson.

The Radleys.  Although the Radleys are rarely seen, the townspeople generally accept all of the gossip--spread mostly by Miss Stephanie--heard about the family. They are avoided because of old Mr. Radley's "foot-washin' Baptist" ways, the delapidated condition of their once-proud home, and because of the "malevolent phantom"--Boo--who resides within.

Education.  Miss Caroline attempts to spread her new-fangled ideas of Progressivism, but the children are not quick to accept it, and Miss Caroline does not have the experience to win them over. She finds Scout's advanced learning skills a threat to her own ideas, and Scout wonders why she is ever excited about attending school in the first place. Some children, like the Ewells, don't bother to attend beyond the first day, and the local truant officer turns a blind eye toward their lack of attendance.

Superstitions.  It is not surprising that many of the children are superstitious, but it extends to adults as well. Negroes avoid walking past the Radley house, and Mr. Avery blames Jem and Scout for the unseasonable snow that hits Maycomb.

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