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.