Summer Reading Assignment: to Kill a Mocking Bird

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"Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summers day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men's stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum." Page 6 Chapter 1 This quotation, is Scout’s introductory description of Maycomb. Scout emphasizes the slow pace, Alabama heat, and old-fashioned values of the town, in which men wear shirt collars, ladies use talcum powder, and the streets are not paved, turning to “red slop” in the rain. This description situates Maycomb in the reader’s mind as a sleepy Southern town; Scout even calls it “tired.” It also situates Scout with respect to the narrative: she writes of the time when she “first knew” Maycomb, indicating that she embarks upon this recollection of her childhood much later in life, as an adult. The description also provides important clues about the story’s chronological setting: in addition to now-outdated elements such as mule-driven Hoover carts and dirt roads, it also makes reference to the widespread poverty of the town, implying that Maycomb is in the midst of the Great Depression.“We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” is the most famous line from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inaugural speech, made after the 1932 presidential election. From this clue, it is reasonable to infer that the action of the story opens in the summer of 1933, an assumption that subsequent historical clues support. “Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t...
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