To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, is an amazing novel, which explores many themes, but mainly the theme of social inequity and the fear of the black population. It is set in the town of Maycomb in the 1930’s. Throughout the novel, Harper Lee shows the attitudes, values and fears of the people of Maycomb through her use of the setting and by characterisation. Harper Lee goes into detail with a lot of the different family members of Maycomb, and tells us which ones are the disgraces of Maycomb, and which ones are the nice people.
The town of Maycomb is an old and dusty town in the south, and it can be seen as a stereotype of the southern American towns of the 1930’s. The great depression was going on at the time, and the people of Maycomb were trying to just scrape through. Maycomb is an old southern town. The streets are not paved and turn to "red slop" which means red mud. The courthouse is described as sagging in the square. Mules ride through hitched to carts. This suggests that the people don’t really care about their town and don’t try to improve it. This shows that they value themselves and are looking to just make money than improve the place that they live in. People amble through the town moving slowly. They have nowhere to go and no money to buy anything.
"Maycomb County has recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself.” The description of the town, the slow moving people, and the remark about fear is all part of the setting to show the fears of Maycomb. Nothing much happens but there is an underlying fear.
The way that Harper Lee uses descriptive language to describe the town, the houses of the town and the way people live reveals some of the values, attitudes and fears of the Maycomb inhabitants. Harper Lee uses very descriptive language and a goes into a lot of detail to describe the Ewell house.
"Maycomb’s Ewells lived behind the town garbage dump in what was once a Negro cabin."
"The cabin’s plank walls were supplemented with sheets of corrugated iron, its roof shingled with tin cans hammered flat, so only its general shape suggested its original design: square, with four tiny rooms opening onto a shotgun hall, the cabin rested uneasily upon four irregular lumps of limestone. Its windows were merely open spaces in the walls, which in the summertime were covered with greasy strips of cheesecloth to keep out the varmints that feasted on Maycomb’s refuse."
"The varmints had a lean time of it, for the Ewells gave the dump a thorough gleaning every day, and the fruits of their industry (those that were not eaten) made the plot of ground around the cabin look like the playhouse of an insane child: what passed for a fence was bits of tree-limbs, broomsticks and tool shafts, all tipped with rusty hammer-heads, snaggle-toothed rake heads, shovels, axes and grubbing hoes, held on with pieces of barbed wire."
From this we get an impression of what the Ewell’s are like and see into their lives. We know form this description that they are trashy white people, and the disgrace of Maycomb. We can tell that they don’t have many values, as they live behind a dump, they leave rubbish lying around and have animals run around the place. The attitude that we get from this is that they really don’t care about life, and Bob Ewell doesn’t care about his children from the way that the Ewell’s are described, and how it is talked about in school.
“The boy (Burris Ewell) stood up. He was the filthiest human I had ever seen. His neck was a dark grey, the backs of his hands were rusty, and his fingernails were black deep into the quick.”
“’He’s a Ewell,’ Little Chuck said. ‘They come first day every year and then leave. The truant lady gets ‘em here ‘cause she threatens ‘em with the sheriff, but she’s give up tryin’ to hold ‘em. She reckons she’s carried out the law just getting’ their names on the roll and runnin’ ‘em here the first day. Ain’t got no mother.’”
This is very