Cultures in Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird

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‘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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