What is the physical setting of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in Maycomb, a rural town in Alabama, during the Great Depression. The author describes it as a "tired old town," surrounded by cotton fields and timberland. The town seems run-down, and the old courthouse "sagged in the square." The courthouse is surrounded by a square of stores, and Atticus's office is near the courthouse in the Maycomb Bank building. The Maycomb Tribune office is across from the courthouse. The farmers in the town still tie their mules to carts in the town square, and people do everything they can to beat the oppressive heat, including bathing before noon and after napping in the afternoon. As the author writes, "People moved slowly then." They had no reason to hurry, as they had no money to spend and nothing to do. 

The town is segregated. Jem and Scout live on the main residential street in the white part of town, near Mrs. Dubose (two doors to the north) and the Radley house (three doors to the south). Tom Robinson, the black man Atticus is defending, lives in the black neighborhood beyond the town dump. Black and white people also attend separate churches.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is set in the fictional small town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression of the 1930s. This fictional town is based loosely on the real city of Monroeville located in Monroe County, Alabama, and the hometown of Harper Lee. 

Within the fictional town, the most prominent feature is a town square with the courthouse in the center. Surrounding the square are the main offices, businesses, and shops of the town, including the jail, supermarket, bank, drugstore, cafe, hardware store, and newspaper office. On the street leading south from the town square are the houses of various prominent white characters in the book, including that of Atticus Finch. Farther south are the Radley house and the schools. The black area of town is set apart from the predominately white neighborhood. Much of the area immediately surrounding the town is minimally developed, providing trees that the children enjoy climbing.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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