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To Kill a Mockingbird - Setting

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at setting in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. The setting of a text means the location and the time in which the events take place. Events occurring in the background, even if only alluded to by characters, are also elements of a literary text’s setting. This wider fictional world is known as context (not to be confused with the author’s real-life context). Another important component of setting is atmosphere, which, like location and time, can change multiple times in a text.

Consider the setting of your text carefully. Characters are affected by the world in which they live, fictional though it is. Authors use a character’s reported thoughts, behaviour and dialogue to show the effect political or social events have on them.

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To Kill a Mockingbird is rooted in a very specific time and place. Its various settings are vivid. When the ladies on their porches appear to be melting, we can almost feel the heat, just as we might feel like fanning ourselves in the stuffy courtroom. We sense the stillness at the jail when Atticus is awaiting trouble.

Geographical setting includes region, or country, environment, the landscapes or buildings in which events occur, and even the weather. Do events occur in a variety of places, or all in the same place? Do characters travel, or arrive from elsewhere? How does the interaction of characters with their environment create meaning in the text?

It can be useful to compare the time a text is set with when it was written. Do these times differ? Why might an author choose to set a text in the past, present or future? Do the consequent differences change our understanding of the story?

Answer the questions below on setting in To Kill a Mockingbird.

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  1. Which of the following does NOT describe the mood of the courthouse during Tom Robinson's trial?
    Tom Robinson's many supporters have faith that Atticus will successfully defend the innocent man
  2. What is the name given to the series of economic events which further impoverishes the poor and struggling farmers and agricultural labourers in the novel?
    Poverty is widespread and public in Maycomb. When Miss Caroline tries to insist that Walter Cunningham borrow money for lunch, not realising he could never repay her, she shows how little she knows about the poverty of her pupils
  3. "We had slowed to a cautious gait, and were feeling our way forward so as not to bump into the trees. The tree was a single and ancient oak; two children could not reach around its trunk and touch hands. It was far away from teachers, their spies, and curious neighbours: it was near the Radley lot, but the Radleys were not curious." What happens to break the spooky spell of this passage?
    The release of tension after Jem and Scout are spooked on their way to the schoolhouse lulls the reader into a sense of complacency
  4. Which of the following is NOT true of the Ewell's cabin?
    The Ewells are extremely poor. The windows of their cabin are just open holes in the outer walls
  5. "The back of the Radley house was less inviting than the front: a ramshackle porch ran the width of the house; there were two doors and two dark windows between the doors. Instead of a column, a rough two-by-four supported one end of the roof." Which of the following words or phrases is here used ironically?
    The front of the Radley house is not exactly "inviting" and the back of the house is especially spooky to the children
  6. The schoolchildren are mistrustful of Miss Caroline because she is from North Alabama. Their mistrust dates back to which historical event?
    The children know that the county where Miss Caroline is from was disloyal to the state of Alabama when it broke away (seceded) from the Union at the beginning of the Civil War. This episode shows the power that historical events and the disagreements of the past still have over the imaginations of the people of Maycomb and which the adults pass down to their children
  7. Where is To Kill a Mockingbird set?
    The fictional Maycomb County is located in Alabama, one of the southern states of the U.S.
  8. Which of the following is true of Jem and Scout's neighbours?
    Mrs Radley's neglect of neighbourly duties such as visiting and stopping for chats provokes gossip amongst the surprised townspeople
  9. "Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the court-house sagged in the square." What impression does this description of the town give the reader?
    The streets are unpaved and no one is employed for the upkeep of the pavements and buildings. The town has declined over the years
  10. Scout narrates the story from an unspecified time in her adulthood. When do the events of the novel take place?
    Like Scout, Harper Lee lived in a small Alabama town during her childhood in the 1930s

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