To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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

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The tone of chapter 1 is reminiscent and humorous.

Tone is the author’s attitude toward the subject. In the first chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout is an adult looking back on her childhood.  She describes her town, Maycomb, and her family in great detail.  She gives a lot of history of both the town and family.

When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. (ch 1)

When Scout looks back at the events of her childhood, it is with a combination of pleasure and sadness.  She has fond memories, but there were some difficult ones too.  The tone of this first chapter helps to establish this.

As Scout tells us her family history, there is a lot of witty humor. For example, she describes the importance of heredity to the people of Maycomb.

Being Southerners, 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. (ch 1)

This both imparts information and makes the reader laugh.  We also learn some interesting things about Scout’s family, including her brother Jem and her lawyer father Atticus.  Atticus is a single dad, raising the two young children with the help of his housekeeper Calpurnia.

Chapter 1 may read like a history book, but it is also full of dry wit.

Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum. (ch 1)

All in all, we learn quite a lot.  The book establishes the information we need to really sink ourselves into the setting, because setting is so crucial to the understanding of the story.

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