What are two different plot elements in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

All plots are made up of five different elements. The first element is the exposition, which is found at the beginning of the story and is the moment the author introduces all major parts of the story such as the setting, the characters, and the main conflicts. The second element is the rising action, which refers to all action that takes place in the story as a result of the conflict; all rising action leads to the climax of the story. The climax, the third plot element, is the turning point in the story; its the moment when the conflict reaches its greatest point of intensity, and the resolution of the story is in sight. The fourth plot element is the falling action, which is all action that takes place after the conflict and brings the story to its resolution. The resolution, the fifth and final plot element, is the moment at the end of the story in which all problems posed by the conflict have been solved.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, author Harper Lee uses the entire first chapter as her exposition. Here, she introduces her narrator and protagonist, Scout Finch, plus all other major characters, including Scout's brother Jem Finch, their father Atticus, their cook Calpurnia, their new friend Dill, and the members of the Radley Family. Even a couple of minor neighborhood characters are introduced, such as the town's gossip named Miss Stephanie Crawford and Dill's aunt named Miss Rachel Haverford. Lee even establishes the Finch's ancestry by stating that their founding father, Simon Finch, came from Cornwall, England, as a fur-trapper and a persecuted Methodist who crossed the Atlantic and eventually made his way up to Saint Stephens, Alabama, where heĀ  developed a very financially profitable homestead, called Finch's Landing.

Lee also uses the first chapter to set the novel in Maycomb, Alabama, during the Great Depression, specifically when President Franklin D. Roosevelt had taken office during the 1930s. We know the novel is set during the Great Depression based on Scout's following narrative description of Maycomb's economy:

A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with. (Ch. 1)

We further know the novel is set during the Great Depression at the start of Roosevelt's presidency based on Scout's statement that "Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself," which is a reference to a famous line in Roosevelt's first inaugural address:

... let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. (as cited in George Mason University, History Matters)

As Lee progresses through the first chapter, we begin to see the development of conflicts. The greatest conflict has to do with events that led up to Jem's arm having been broken, which we later learn has to do with Tom Robinson's trial. A minor conflict concerns Dill encouraging Jem to try and get Boo Radley to come out of his house, a conflict that Lee uses to develop her central theme of prejudices.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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