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Cultures in Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird

Satisfactory Essays
‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is a brilliantly written novel by Harper Lee.

The novel is set in Alabama, USA, in the 1930’s and tells the story of

a lawyer who defends a wrongly accused black man while trying to raise

his two children, Scout and Jem, as they go through childhood and

adolescence, life’s most active learning stages. The book is written

through the eyes of Atticus’ naïve young daughter, Scout, and southern

ways enhance the plot of the story to give it a realistic and

historical perspective. The portrayal of southern culture is shown in

an array of subjects. Family, racism, hypocrisy, poverty and hatred

are just some of many.

The novel is set in the sleepy town of Maycomb, which, although a

fictional town, is based on Monroeville, Alabama and is a perfect

microcosm of the ways and culture of people during the 1930’s

Depression. Maycomb was not on any major routes. It was “an island in

a patchwork sea of cotton fields and timberland” Harper Lee describes

Maycomb as a “Tired old town”. The often-humid climate made summers

almost unbearable, and the seasons couldn’t clearly be distinguished.

It didn’t rain or snow often, (it hadn’t snowed since 1885). When it

rained the streets turned to red slop. The town basically consisted of

an oak tree-lined square with one main street. There was a courthouse,

which sagged in the square and a jail “a miniature gothic joke one

cell wide and two cells high”. There was also a newspaper office, a

few general stores and a school, which was mainly populated by

children from outlying farms. The coloured neighbourhood was behind

the town dump, completely separated from the white community.

People rarely came and left Maycomb, because it was not on any major

routes. It was the administrative centre of Maycomb County, but too

far from the river to grow from commercial wealth.

The town grew “inward” according to Harper Lee, which, by 1933, led to

a caste system in which people had become “utterly predictable” to

each other. Atticus doesn’t believe one should judge people on what

their backgrounds are like, and tries to teach Jem and Scout this. But

when Aunt Alexandra arrived she “fitted into the world of Maycomb like

a hand into a glove.”

Some families in town were respectable, and others weren’t. For

example, no matter how poor the Cunninghams were, they still had

standards. If they borrowed some money, or someone did a job for them,

they would always pay them back. If they could not afford to pay them

in money, they would pay them in kind. For example, when Atticus
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