Maycomb is a small town, with all of the characteristics implicit in small town life: everyone knows everyone else's business, which can lead to endless and mostly harmless gossip, but more importantly makes the community extremely intimate and close-knit. The first part of To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on this close-knit community, because when they're young Scout and Jem believe that's what Maycomb is.
To an extent, the young Scout and Jem are right: Maycomb is a small, safe, peaceful, intimate community. Yet as Scout and Jem grow up, they come to see another side to their small town. They discover that the town has a fiercely maintained and largely illogical social hierarchy based on wealth, history, and race; ensures its safety through a communal insistence on conformity that subjects anyone who does not conform to dislike and mistrust; and gains its peace by resisting change and ignoring injustice. This is not to say that To Kill a Mockingbird is a condemnation of small town life in the South. Rather, the novel sees the town in much the same terms it sees individuals: as containing wisdom and blindness, good and evil, and for all of that possessing its own special dignity.
Small Town Southern Life ThemeTracker
Small Town Southern Life Quotes in To Kill a Mockingbird
"For a number of reasons," said Atticus. "The main one is, if I didn't I couldn't hold up my head in town, I couldn't represent this county in the legislature, I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do something again."
"Atticus, are we going to win it?"
"Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win," Atticus said.
… When I looked down the pathway again, Lula was gone. In her place was a solid mass of colored people.
One of them stepped from the crowd. It was Zeebo, the garbage collector. "Mister Jem," he said, "we're mighty glad to have you all here. Don't pay no 'tention to Lula, she's contentious because Reverend Sykes threatened to church her. She's a troublemaker from way back, got fancy ideas an' haughty ways—we're mighty glad to have you all."
"Uncle Jack Finch says we really don't know. He says as far as he can trace back the Finches we ain't, but for all he knows we mighta come straight out of Ethiopia durin' the Old Testament."
"Well if we came out durin' the Old Testament it's too long ago to matter."
"That's what I thought," said Jem, "but around here once you have a drop of Negro blood, that makes you all black."
"Like I says before, it weren't safe for any nigger to be in a—fix like that."
"But you weren't in a fix—you testified that you were resisting Miss Ewell. Were you so scared that she'd hurt you, you ran, a big buck like you?"
"No suh, I's scared I'd be in court, just like I am now."
"Scared of arrest, scared you'd have to face up to what you did?"
"No suh, scared I'd hafta face up to what I didn't do."