Setting of To Kill a Mockingbird

This post is for the students who are studying To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I marked a number of the extended texts essays in the recent exams and noticed that some students were confused about aspects of the setting. The basic time setting of the novel is in Maycomb County in the American South during the 1930s. Due to the Great Depression, poverty is a subject that affects many. Instead of using this as a binding theme, the people in the town use it as an element of separation. Prejudice of every sort runs rampant throughout the town and the various settings are used to present themes such as racism and inequality.

When Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, her home state of Alabama was a centre of Civil Rights activity. Throughout the South, blacks and whites were segregated. African-Americans had to use different facilities and sit on the back of public buses and were expected to move if a white person wanted their seat. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Her decision led to a bus boycott which gave new life to the Civil Rights movement and helped Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to national prominence. Therefore, the subject of To Kill a Mockingbird was timely when it was published in 1960.

By setting her novel in the Great Depression of the 1930s Harper Lee gave her readers an objective place from which to think about the issue. Lee also chose the 1930s because Civil Rights issues didn’t just begin at the time she was writing. The Civil Rights movement had a long history of making “baby-step(s)” before it became cohesive. Racial tensions were pronounced during the Depression because African-Americans and Whites were competing for the same jobs in a time where few jobs were available. Whites, particularly in the South, began to demand that they be given the jobs that were going to black workers. Some whites even believed that African-Americans were stealing jobs from them, making a tense situation worse.


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