To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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What is the setting in chapter 1 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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To Kill a Mockingbird opens in Maycomb, Alabama, a small country setting in the 1930s. This influences the plot and Scout's narration from the very beginning as she notes, for example, that "being Southeners, it was a source of shame to some members of the family that we had no recorded ancestors on either side of the Battle of Hastings" and "it was customary for the men in the family to remain on Simon's homestead, Finch's Landing, and make their living from cotton." Southern traditions and ways of thinking influence the plot and directly build to the climax of the novel.

The setting also contributes to various character conflicts, with one notable conflict being between Atticus, a more progressively-thinking Southerner, and Aunt Alexandra, who is deeply concerned with how she and the family will be judged if they deviate from expected Southern social norms.

Scout describes Maycomb with a lazy sort of indifference, setting the stage for the childhood adventures she enjoys with Jem and Dill; the setting also provides the stark contrast between the lazy childhood days early in the novel and the backdrop for the trial that will launch the children into new maturity later in the novel.

Readers also learn that the Finch household, which is a focal point of the setting for much of the novel, sits close to the Radley Place, which "[juts] into a sharp curve beyond [their] house." This proximity will also drive several subplots as the novel progresses.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The setting of the novel takes place in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama during the early 1930s. In Chapter 1, Scout describes Maycomb as a tired, old town where people moved slowly. Scout also comments on the weather and mentions that the summers were extremely hot, and when it rained the streets turned to "red slop." Since the novel takes place during the Great Depression, Scout comments on the fact that there was nothing to buy and no money to buy it with. Scout also mentions that there was a "vague optimism" throughout the community and references a line from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's First Inaugural Address. However, the setting of the novel reflects elements of the Southern Gothic genre. The run-down town, ugly weather, harsh economic climate, and relative slow-moving nature of the community correspond with Southern Gothic literature. In this setting, Lee portrays how innocent individuals are harmed by their prejudiced neighbors. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression.

This is a very setting-driven book, and the setting is a character itself.  The town has very specific peculiarities.  People are friends and neighbors one day, and lynch mob members the next.  Scout describes the town in chapter 1.

Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. (Ch 1)

The long descriptions of the town and the streets in chapter 1 help us picture where the story takes place.  Scout notes that people moved more slowly then, because there was nothing to buy and no money to buy it with.

But it was a time of vague optimism for some of the people: Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself. (ch 1)

This famous FDR speech, and the comments about no one having money, definitely place the story at the time of the Great Depression.  People had suffered for quite some time.  Professional people and farmers struggled, and the poor were even more poor.

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