“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks” This innocent view held by Scout Finch illustrates her pure, unchanged view on the people of her town which plays as as a complete contrast to that of the people’s views on each other. In the small town of Maycomb in 1930’s, the prejudice which runs through its veins controls the inhabitants and the direction of the novel.
The Great Depression of the 1930’s is alluded to many times as it the backdrop of the novel. As a nation the U.S was dramatically effected by the depression, and the southern states were also living at the extreme loss of the time. Although Maycomb is a fictional town, the effects of the time period contributed to the setting and the prejudice within Lee’s creation. Scout narrates when discussing Atticus’s career that during the first five years of his practice in Maycomb, he “practiced economy more than anything”. Although the depression effected the wealth of the town as a whole, the social status’s remained intact and Jem describes to us the different families within Maycomb. “There’s four kinds of folks in the world. There’s the ordinary kind like us and the neighbours, theres the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells at the dump, and the Negroes.” The dislike between “one kind of people… and another kind of people” is only intensified by the desperate times of the depression. It is interesting to note that although the Ewells and regarded as “trash”, the blacks are discriminated against due to the colour of their skin. In a time of strict Jim Crow laws, blacks were only just recovering from a life of slavery and the prejudice embedded in the town is justified by these racist laws. The southern states are particularly known for their racial involvement and violence towards black’s and Lee uses Maycomb’s physical setting as a device to intensify the racism. This is seen in the mob arriving at Tom’s cell with only dark intentions and the bias trial.
The immediate prejudice is not only seen the historical pretence of the setting, but thought the interactions of the characters towards Boo Radley. Despite having very little factual evidence against Boo, the town is quick to assume his guilt which shows the reader the nature of the people and the embedded prejudice which controls them. Boo is described as a monster by Jem, “six and a half feet tall, he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch… a long jagged scar ran across his face and his teeth were yellow and rotten”. Although Jem describes Boo as the childhood monster of our nightmares, the older, more intelligent adults of the town also considered him “strange”. Very little is actually known about Boo’s nature until he is slowly revealed to us as the kind caring saviour of the children through his small acts of kindness, the gifts in the tree and sewing Jem’s pants, and set in concrete by his courage to defend the children from Ewell. The town is quick to judge Boo on the rumours which they have heard and Lee is establishing the nature of the society in the 30’s and the nature which still exists today. The setting of Maycomb is only a catalyst to the prejudice which surrounds Boo as the social hierarchy and racist Jim Crow laws implement a culture of prejudice.
The setting of 1930’s Maycomb provides the ideal environment for prejudice to occur and thrive. The culture that has arisen from years of racism, slavery, social standings, and sexism creates a town in the Southern states of America where a man is wrongly convicted according to his race. Lee in writing the novel was telling the reader the problems the world faced and through symbols such as Boo Radley, connected her story to the world at time in need of desperate change.