Maycomb

This page provides the evidence for essays on the attititudes of the people in Maycomb.  Some of these are implicit, such as the nature of women as gossips, some explicit such as the views about courage and the racism of whites.  There are many instances of the author’s implied criticism and satire of the community she depicts.

A small town in 1930’s America

Here are some references which will be useful starting points, when considering Maycomb:  I have organised the material under the following headings:

N.B. Page numbers refer to The Arrow Books 2010 edition.  See the bottom of the page for the list of chapters by page number.

The Significance of Physical Features and Historical Elements

Maycomb, despite being the county seat’ (4), has the dubious past of having sprawled out from Sinkfield’s tavern’, its hub (144).  It is ‘a tired old town’ (5), with red muddy streets and a sagging courthouse; the scales of justice are weighed down in the town, they are imbalanced by intolerance and prejudice.  The courthouse may be the ‘most venerated’ but it is also both literally and metaphorically the most ‘hideous’ (165); the accuracy of this latter observation has considerable relevance when one considers the jury unanimously finding Tom Robinson guilty; fair and open operation of the law is a key motif in the novel but justice is physically set in the ‘sagging’ courthouse’s to show that it is inextricable from the burden of the nature of Maycomb, itself; this tension, between justice and the people, lies at the heart of the novel.

The town has failed to progress, having ‘remained the same size for the last one hundred years’ (144).  The events occur at the time of The Great Depression (context) when there was considerable poverty and few jobs.   Scout conveys the lack of purposefulness in her description of Maycomb, saying: ‘there was no hurry for there was nowhere to go’ (6) and she, unknowingly, refers to Roosevelt’s upbeat inaugural Address of 1933 indicating that Americans ‘had nothing to fear but fear itself’ (6); the contrast between the town’s listlessness and entanglement with the past and the prospect of better times for the courageous is a significant structural, writing feature.

Family and Social features

5, 142

Atticus was related by blood or marriage to nearly every family in the town

scratch most folks in Maycomb and they’re kin to us (Jem)

6

there was no hurry for there was nowhere to go … Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself

34

you, Miss Scout Finch, are of the common folk

98

I hope and pray that I can get Jem and Scout through …  this without them catching Maycombe’s usual disease (racism)’

145

caste system … the older generation…were utterly predictable to one another:  they took for granted attitudes, character shading, even gestures as having been repeated in each generation and refined by time.  Thus the dicta No Crawford Minds His Own Business, Every Third Merriweather is Morbid …

143

Everybody in Maycomb, it seemed, had a Streak: a Drinking Streak, a Gambling Streak, a Mean Streak, a Funny Streak.

147

Aunt Alexandra’s views conveyed by Atticus: you are the product of several generations’ gentile breeding (cf p34 above)

247

they’re good folks. But they’re not our kind of folks

249,

there’s four kinds of folk in the world: (us, Cunninghams, Ewells, Negroes)

290

People in Maycomber knew each other’s voices

‘Small Town’ Mentality and Values

27

anybody sets foot in this house yo’s company

33

the Ewells had been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations.  None of then had done an honest day’s work

177

mixed children: They don’t belong anywhere

178

around her once you have a drop of Negro blood, that makes you all black

237

We’re the safest folks in the world … We’re so rarely called upon to be Christians

270

Over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody

Gossip and Hearsay

9

People said he went out at night when the moon was high … When people’s azaleas froze in a cold snap, it was because he had breathed on them.

9

(After a series of nocturnal events) people still looked at the Radley place, unwilling to discard their initial suspicions.

9

Radley pecans would kill you

10

neighbourhood legend (about Arthur Radley)

12

according to Miss Stephanie…Boo drove the scissors into his parent’s leg

13

the neighbourhood thought when Mr Radley went under Boo would come out

14

Miss Stephanie said…she saw him looking straight thought the window at her

26

Walter Cunningham: folks say he pizened ’em [pecans] and put ’em over on the school side of the fence.

142

[Aunt Alexandra] was an incurable gossip.

Attitudes to Education

5

he invested his earnings in his brother’s education

To be continued

Chapters by page number

PAGES

CHAPTERS

PART ONE

3-16

1

17-24

2

25-35

3

36-45

4

46-55

5

55-64

6

64-70

7

70-82

8

82-98

9

98-109

10

110-124

11

PART TWO

127-139

12

140-148

13

148-159

14

159-171

15

171-182

16

183-197

17

197-209

18

209-220

19

220-227

20

227-233

21

234-239

22

239-251

23

251-262

24

262-266

25

266-273

26

273-280

27

280-294

28

294-298

29

298-305

30

305-end

31

For more of my pages on ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, please hover your cursor over the Lee tab at the top of the page.

 

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