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

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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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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gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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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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