An Analysis of the Significance of the Setting of To Kill a
Set in Maycomb County, Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is
set in a town where racism is prevalent. Harper Lee’s novel raises key
themes to instil into the reader many ethics to combat these racist
attitudes and inculcate other moral values. These themes are enforced
by the setting and it is through the setting that Harper Lee
emphasises the principles laid down by the novel. The setting is also
used metaphorically to describe the themes in To Kill a Mockingbird.
So it is necessary to analyse the significance of the setting and
realise how events are portrayed through the setting which in turn
emphasise key themes of the novel.
The street is an important part of the setting, where key themes are
emphasised. In the street, Scout and brother Jem alongside friend Dil
are able to have fun through their childhood games whilst not
compromising their safety and playing in a safe environment. Though
the people within the street do not compromise safety, the street is
not protected from outside attack. In fact, this flaw is exposed and
safety is compromised when a dog, from outside the street, is found to
have rabies. After panic within the street, Atticus Finch, an outsider
(as he works outside the street) is the one who protects the town from
attack. This episode draws a parallel to an event later in the novel
when Bob Ewell, an outsider compromises the town’s safety in an
attempt at Scout and Jem’s life. Again, it is someone who can be
viewed as an outsider to the street (as he was in recluse), Boo
(Arthur) Radley who is able to restore safety to the street. In both
instances, the outsider is not part of the problem and objects to it.
This is resembled with Mr. Link Deas, an outsider to the street, who
objected to the institutional racism on show in the courthouse.
Racism, a key theme in the novel is also condemned by Atticus Finch –
"…As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of
your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget
it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is,
how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is
It is the location of Mr. Deas’s outburst, the courthouse, where the
theme of racism is again emphasised, through the setting. In terms of
its geographical location, the courthouse is at the centre of the town
and much of the town is engrossed in affairs at Tom Robinson’s trial.
So it is fair to assume that the courthouse depicts the town and the
views expressed by the courthouse can be used as that of the town’s.
As the courthouse is the setting for the worst racism, where a charge
is indicted onto an innocent man because of his race, and the
courthouse is central to the town, it can be interpreted that racism
is at the heart of the town and so the town can be viewed as
endemically racist. Again, Harper Lee...