What happened in Chapter 1 in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this first chapter, Scout provides a lot of background information about Maycomb, the South, and her family history. Scout, as an adult, first mentions the incident in which Jem breaks his arm. This incident occurs, within the context of the novel, in the final chapters. Scout then backtracks to discuss the events that will lead up to this incident. She goes back to the time of Andrew Jackson to explain how her family came to settle in the Maycomb area. She talks about her ancestor, Simon Finch, and how he came from England to settle in the South. Then she provides background information about her father, noting how he attended law school and put his brother through medical school. Scout ends these introductions by saying that Atticus is related by blood or marriage to everyone in Maycomb. She says this, perhaps an exaggeration, to show how her family has a long history in this area. 

Scout talks a bit about Maycomb and how her mother died when she was two years old. She introduces a lot of the people in Maycomb, particularly those she interacts with the most. These include the Radleys, Mrs. Dubose, Jem, and Dill. The remainder of the chapter is devoted to the children's infatuation with Boo Radley. Dill dares Jem to knock on the Radley's front door. Eventually, Jem takes the dare. He runs to the door, smacks it with his hand and then runs back to his own porch. The chapter ends with description of the Radley house as it looks just after Jem's raid: 

The old house was the same, droopy and sick, but as we stared down the street we thought we saw an inside shutter move. Flick. A tiny, almost invisible movement, and the house was still. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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