What attitudes seem prevalent as a result of elements of setting in the beginning of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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The main attitudes that seem pervasive in rural Southern Maycomb are racism and prejudice against different social classes. 

The elements of setting that are most significant here are historical context and local customs.  The time the story took place, in the 1930s, and the practices of the South, had an...

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The main attitudes that seem pervasive in rural Southern Maycomb are racism and prejudice against different social classes. 

The elements of setting that are most significant here are historical context and local customs.  The time the story took place, in the 1930s, and the practices of the South, had an impact on the story.

All of these elements are present in the first few chapters.

The first distinction we are introduced to is class distinction.  Walter Cunningham, Scout’s classmate, comes to school without a lunch.  His teacher, Miss Caroline, tries to give him money to buy lunch.  He refuses, because he does not have any way to pay it back and his family is too proud to take charity.

Since their father is a lawyer and they belong to a good family, Jem and Scout are not really poor.  However, they don’t have gobs of money either.

Atticus said professional people were poor because the farmers were poor. As Maycomb County was farm country, nickels and dimes were hard to come by for doctors and dentists and lawyers. (ch 2)

People will not look down on the Finches, because they come from a good family.  Atticus tries to tell the children that their aunt wants them to act as respected citizens.

[You] are not from run-of-the-mill people, that you are the product of several generations' gentle breeding… and that you should try to live up to your name. (ch 13)

In Maycomb, family is everything.  Tradition, and the value of one’s family name, dictates who you are.

Aunt Alexandra was of the opinion, obliquely expressed, that the longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was. (ch 13)

Thus, people are known by their “clan” of Finches, Ewells, Cunninghams and so on.  As a family they are expected to share similar traits.  People don’t rise above their family.

The other key attitude is people’s feelings toward race.  There is rampant racism in Maycomb.  In fact, it is not considered proper to not be racism.  When Scout gets in fights for defending her father, he tells her that there is nothing wrong with being black.

I'm simply defending a Negro- his name's Tom Robinson. He lives in that little settlement beyond the town dump.  He's a member of Calpurnia's church, and Cal knows his family well. (ch 9)

The people of Maycomb refuse to accept that Robinson might be innocent, or even that he deserves a fair trial.  They treat all non-whites as second-class citizens who are inferior because of their skin color.  Atticus is one of the few who does not think this way.

The significant elements of setting are historical context and local customs.  Because of the time and local customs, race and social class were crucially important to characters.

 
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Right in the beginning of this novel, the author sets the stage for what is to come. First of all, we learn that it is set in the South. Then we learn that the reason Scout's and Jem's ancestors came to the South was to avoid persecution of Methodists:

In England, Simon was irritated by the persecution of those who called themselves Methodists at the hands of their more liberal brethren, and as Simon called himself a Methodist, he worked his way across the Atlantic to Philadelphia, thence to Jamaica, thence to Mobile, and up the Saint Stephens.

This is foreshadowing the "persecution" that is to take place in the novel.

We also learn that Maycomb is an old town, and we infer that the people are no doubt set in their ways:

Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it.

Also, we learn that the novel takes place before the Civil Rights movement, so we get the idea that the attitude of prejudice is going to be involved:

People moved slowly then. They ambled across the square, shuffled in and out of the stores around it, took their time about everything. 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, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County. 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.

"Nothing to fear but fear itself" was a quote from Franklin Roosevelt in his first inaugeral address in 1932, so this was before World War II.

We also learn attitudes about the characters. We see that the story is to take place when Scout and Jem were children. We learn that Scout is the narrator, and that the novel is a flashback. We learn that Scout and Jem lost their mother when they were young and that their father, Atticus, is a respected attorney:

He liked Maycomb, he was Maycomb County born and bred; he knew his people, they knew him, and because of Simon Finch's industry, Atticus was related by blood or marriage to nearly every family in the town.

All of this will figure into the plot later on.

Finally, we also learn the children's attitude toward Boo Radley, who we know will also figure into the plot in a major way. Boo is the mockingbird:

But by the end of August our repertoire was vapid from countless reproductions, and it was then that Dill gave us the idea of making Boo Radley come out.

Did you know that Harper Lee rewrote this novel many times? It is truly evident in this first chapter, especially, because with wonderfully tight, but compelling writing, she sets the stage for the entire story that she begins to unfold.

Check it out further here on enotes.

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One example is the rights of women during the 1930s. Many of the women in the novel are characterized as unusually quirky. Miss Stephanie (nearly all of the women are referred to as "Miss," a true Southern trait) Crawford's life revolves around gossip; Miss Maudie (who is a widow) apparently has no children and no male suitors; Miss Rachel sneaks liquor each morning, according to Dill. Misses Tutti and Frutti are presented in a short, humorous scene. Women are not allowed to serve on juries, and the ladies of the Missionary Circle have a laugh at the thought of Scout possibly becoming an attorney--women lawyers being practically non-existent in the Deep South during the 1930s.

The small, rural setting of Maycomb also comes into play. There is little to do, people walk rather than drive (and still ride horses and mules), and neighbors grow vegetables in their back yards. People sit on the porch to stay cool, greet their neighbors when they walk by and know everybody's business. Like all Southern towns of the era, the white and black communities are distinctivey separated, and segregation prevails.

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Setting: Alabama, post Civil War, pre Civil Rights Movement.

Attitude: There are many terms to denote this geographic region during this time period.  Among them are the "Old South" and the "Bible Belt."

Keeping that in mind, the first prevailing attitude is prejudice based largely on the hatred or fear of something different.  This attitude is manifested in several ways.

-  Prejudice against black people.  Examples: townspeople's reactions to Atticus taking Tom Robinson's trial or Aunt Alexandra's reaction to the kids attending Calpurnia's church.
-  Prejudice against poor white people, or "trash."  Example: townspeople's reactions to Bob Ewell.
-  Prejudice against social outcasts.  Example: Miss Stephanie's gossip about the Radleys.

The second most prevalent attitude is the idea of a double standard or an attitude of hypocrisy among, for lack of a better term, high society.  This attitude is shown most overtly during Aunt Alexandra's missionary society meeting.

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