Describe the setting in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Published in 1960, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was an instant success.  Partially autobiographical, the story was successful because it came at the time of the Civil Rights movement.  The ideas presented coincided with the philosophy of equality, freedom, and justice. 

The story's characters are reminiscent of Harper Lee and her brother. Scout Finch narrates the story of her life with her brother and father Atticus.  Many other characters add to the realistic, humorous and poignant story.  The story spans three years in the life of Scout and Jem. Scout begins the first grade and is in the third grade when the story ends.

The setting of the story is Maycomb, Alabama, a small southern town based on Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.  The setting’s importance cannot be overstated. Everything stems from the small town people and their way of living.  

Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it…People moved slowly then.  They ambled across the square, shuffled in and out of the stores around it, took their time about everything…We lived on the main residential street in town… 

The importance of the Finch house's location provides the avenue for Boo Radley’s part in the story.  Since they live near to Boo, his presence is felt throughout the story.  Miss Maudie also lives across the street which also adds excitement to the story when her house burns.

Set in the 1930s, the great depression impacts the lives of these people.  Segregation finds a home in every town in the south.  African-Americans were considered inferior and sub-human.  The black people were even subservient to the “white trash” like the Ewell family.

Typical of most small southern towns, the rules of society are set and enforced.  To be a part of society, one must follow the rules.  Newcomers are looked at with suspicion. There are different rules which apply to the behavior of the white people and the blacks.

This was the setting for the titillating story of the Finch children and their event filled lives.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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