How was North Alabama different from Maycomb County, according to Scout in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?

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When Scout turns her description to school in chapter two, the fact that her teacher, Miss Caroline Fisher, comes from outside Maycomb points out the differences between it and northern Alabama whence she has come.

Miss Caroline presents herself quite differently from the residents of more rural Maycomb. Her "crimson...

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When Scout turns her description to school in chapter two, the fact that her teacher, Miss Caroline Fisher, comes from outside Maycomb points out the differences between it and northern Alabama whence she has come.

Miss Caroline presents herself quite differently from the residents of more rural Maycomb. Her "crimson fingernail polish" and "high heeled pumps" catch Scout's attention because they are so different from what she sees on a daily basis. The northern county from where Miss Caroline hails seceded from Alabama when Alabama seceded from the Union, suggesting that it had a more Northern attitude than the rest of the state. This would account for the "apprehension" that the children in the classroom feel when Miss Caroline talks about her background.

Scout's references to "steel companies," "Republicans," and "liquor interests" suggests a more business-oriented and business-friendly outlook in northern Alabama. It seems more highly educated, being the "full of ... professors." In short, it sounds much more progressive, well-informed, and urbanized than the traditional and slower-paced environs of Maycomb County. The fact that Atticus and Scout read The Mobile Register places them in the more deeply southern part of the state, if Mobile is the nearest urban center. Because Atticus is an attorney, his interests might well be more progressive than many of his acquaintances and neighbors in Maycomb County.

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Scout's first-grade teacher, Miss Caroline Fisher, hails from Winston County, Alabama and is considered an outsider in Maycomb's close-knit community. Miss Caroline is depicted as an attractive, young teacher who is inexperienced and struggles to understand and control the students in her class. When Miss Caroline introduces herself to the students, she informs them that she is from Winston County, and Scout mentions that the entire class "murmured apprehensively." According to Scout, northern Alabama is significantly different from Maycomb's rural, small-town community and is full of "Liquor Interests, Big Mules, steel companies, Republicans, professors, and other persons of no background." Scout's perception of Winston County reflects her community's prejudice against the northern region of Alabama, which does not share similar political, economic, or social values.

Unlike the progressive, affluent northern region of Alabama, Maycomb is a small farming community made up of Southern Democrats, who proudly supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. Scout also mentions that her entire community was aware that Winston County seceded from Alabama once Alabama seceded from the Union, which explains their resentment and prejudice toward Miss Caroline's hometown. The fact that Miss Caroline Fisher hails from Winston County contributes to her characterization as an outsider who is not familiar with Maycomb's rural culture or her students' backgrounds. During Scout's first day of school, she gets into several altercations with Miss Caroline, who attempts to punish her in front of the class and tells Scout to stop reading with her father.

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In Chapter 2 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, we learn that Scout's new first-grade teacher, Miss Caroline Fisher, has recently moved to Maycomb from Winston County in North Alabama. Scout notes that, upon hearing this, the children whispered among themselves for fear she may "prove to harbor her share of the peculiarities indigenous to that region."

Scout continues to explain that Winston County considers itself to be so different from the rest of Alabama that it seceded from the state of Alabama when Alabama seceded from the Union in 1861. Scout gives the following reasons for the differences between Winston County and the rest of Alabama:

North Alabama was full of Liquor Interests, Big Mules, steel companies, Republicans, professors, and other persons of no background. (Ch. 2)

Not all of Scout's comments about North Alabama can be historically supported, which shows she is probably reciting what she learned as young Scout through gossip and not speaking as the adult Jean Louise.

Historically, Winston County did not actually secede from Alabama though it proclaimed its right to and its desire to. Winston County has a very different climate and environment from the rest of Alabama, which made it difficult for cotton production in the area. Instead, the economy relied on subsistence farming (McRae, D., "Free State of Winston," Encyclopedia of Alabama). Since there were no cotton planters in Winston County, there were very few slave owners. Since slavery was not an issue in Winston County, many of its residents were Unionists. Though an overwhelming majority of Winston County residents voted for Democrat John C. Brekinridge when he ran for U.S. President, they also voted for Unionist Christopher Sheats to represent Winston County at Alabama's secession convention (McRae). Sheats "refused to sign the secession ordinance" and called for neutrality in the county (McRae). After the Civil War, Winston County's Unionists formed a strong Republican base, in contrast to the rest of Alabama's citizens, who were Democrats. The formation of the strong Republican base can account for Scout saying that the people of Winston County were Republicans.

It was at an unofficial gathering at Looney's Tavern that Unionists in Winston County proclaimed Alabama had no constitutional right to secede and declared that, if Alabama did have the right to secede, then Winston County equally had the right to secede from Alabama (McRae). Scout's reference to "Liquor Interests" may refer to the historical gathering at Looney's Tavern. However, though many Unionists in Winston County vehemently opposed the Confederates, no documentation was ever signed officially seceding the county from Alabama. 

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