In her description of the town in chaptee 1, Harper Lee makes gives Maycomb a very negative atmosphere.
She repeats the adjective “old” to emphasize how dull and unexciting it is. She personifies the town by saying it was “tired”, giving it a slow, aimless feel. The long sentences are punctuated with lots of semicolons and commas; every time you think one of the sentences will end it carries on. The sentences reflect life at Maycomb, even though they are long and dwindling, they lead to no real conclusion. Moreover, the sentences contain lots of alliteration and sibilance, for example “flicked flies”, and “sagged on the square”. This technique possibly reflects daily life in Maycomb: repetitive and unsurprising, making the town, in the readers mind, a stereotypical southern town. Another way Lee accentuates the sluggish pace in this town is the verbs he uses when describing the people of Maycomb: the words “ambled” and “shuffled” emphasize the leisurely lives the people lead, and how well the town and the residents suit eachother, or maybe how mch they affect eachother.
The sentence “a day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer” shows the reader even time was drawn-out here, and life would have to be very tedious to wish there were less hours in a day.The heat may be another cause of the pessimistic feel of Maycomb; in the clause “mens stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning”, the contrast between “stiff” and “wilted” shows the reader that the heat is powerful and controlling, capable of mild forms of destruction and decreasing the speed of activities, typical of the Alabama area. This quote also show the towns old fashioned values: men wore stiff collars, women talcum powder.Even areas sheltered from the sun are hot; the shade is “sweltering”, implying the areas out of the shade are unbearable.The prefix/word no is repeated often, showing the reader a complete lack of happiness. However there is a sudden change in the tone of the chapter, “a time of vague optimism” contradicts the depressive style of the previous description of Maycomb, making the reader wonder how life in this seemingly awful town could possibly lead to optimism. The phrase “it had nothing to fear but fear itself” possibly derives from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inaugural speech, made after the 1932 presidential election, during the great depression.
Maycomb has no real enemy or threat apart from the damaging affect of fear: prejudice, violence and sadness, which gives the reader the impression that the people of Maycomb have brought their sadness upon themselves.In the rest of chapter one, Lee gives Maycomb an open, atmosphere where everybody knows eachother, which heavily contrasts with the dark undercurrent of racism running through the whole book. On the one hand, it is a close community where generations of the same familys have lived for years, children play out all summer, and there are no strangers. The fact hardly any other places are mentioned suggests that the town is isolated and this may be the reason for it. Jem says “”Don’t have any picture shows here, except Jesus ones in the courthouse sometimes,””, showing the reader both that Maycomb is small and uncultured and also that is it very religious. Indeed, going to church was Maycombs “principal recreation”, which could be an explantion of their avoidance of other cultures: they do not want to taint the towns strong, Christian atmosphere. The town only has one police officer, described as an “ancient beedle”, showing the town is not unsafe of typically violent, however, nor is it prepared for anything other than the normal routine. The people of Maycomb do not like secrets or not knowing things; “closed doors meant illness or cold weather only”, shows the reader it’s hard to hide in Maycomb.
Overall, Maycomb is very set in its ways.On the other hand, when somebody, or a group of people, or even one event, does not conform to Maycombs strict conduct, it is neither readily accepted or forgotten. The Radleys are the subject of lots of gossip and scapegoating. In some cases gossip is harmless; in Maycomb due to the lack of entertainment resources there is lots of it. The Radleys did not go to church and kept to themselves; actions considered “unforgivable”. This adjective seems very over the top in comparison to their crime, and shows the reader that if you are to survive in Maycomb you must be very careful not to be inconspicuous, because the more you try to hide, the more people will find out about you, and certainly make up about you.
Their actions are “neighbourhood legend”, and the main character of the story describes that Mr Radley “walked to town at eleven- thirty every morning and came back promptly at twelve, is sometimes carrying a brown paper bag”; proving just how suspicious the neighbourhood is of the family because they are not the same as all the rest. The children know the Radleys child as a “Malevolent Phantom” Solely because they have been told that he is: “people said” is repeated showing just how many lies (or truths) travelled around Maycomb. According to gossip, Arthur “Boo” Radley had mixed with the wrong crowd and had one wild night in Maycomb, something so deeply scandalous it is still talked about years later. This shows the reader when anything mildly interesting happens, news spreads like wildfire.
There is also an element of racism in the book; although there is no obvious mistreatment of different races they are indirectly separated and there are obviously still feelings between them. The fact the word “negro” is even mentioned show that black people and white people are separated in this society, which is also broken in other ways. Black maids and housemaids are still bitter against their employers: “Calpurnia rarely commented on the ways of white people.
”, which makes the reader feel that there are many more subtle problems beneath the surface. In one part of the book there is obvious racism; when Arthur Radley is being punished “the sheriff hadn’t the heart to put him in jail alongside Negroes”, implying even figures whose job it is to be fair are racially biased.Lee creates the impression Maycomb is obviously a very bored town, which may be a result of the great Depression and its isolated position, but more likely it is because of the negative and lazy atmosphere and the attitude of the residents. The town holds tightly to religion and its ancient habits, things that are “alien to Maycombs ways” are disliked. The town will not accept it is ignoring the rest of the world.
The result of their boredom is gossip, and as they are with their lifestyle, they are stubborn with that too, “unwilling to discard their initial suspicions”, showing the reader that the people of Maycomb can never be wrong or completely fulfilled. However Lee shows that they are blissfully unaware of anything they are missing; they respect tradition and will probably be born and die in Maycomb, never even slightly impacting on the intense, claustrophic town. However, this tight, controlled life may be what attracted people there, Atticus Finch “liked Maycomb, he was Maycomb County born and bred; he knew his people, they knew him”.