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To Kill a Mockingbird - The First Chapter

            Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" opens with a short chapter where the narrator, whom we later come to know as Scout, takes the reader back to her childhood spent in a small town called Maycomb. She mentions the accident where 'Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow' and uses it as a device to set the plot in motion. In her conversational, familiar tone, Scout introduces the main characters, establishes the themes and the setting, and creates a hook for the reader, with extreme ease and subtlety. The novel begins with the voice of the adult version Scout but throughout the rest of the story we are shown the perspective of the younger girl that the present Scout once was. Thus, the reader views the events of the novel through an unbiased and innocent lens, and perceives the transition of the two children – Jem and Scout – from innocence to maturity, making the novel a bildungsroman. .
             The first chapter of the novel weaves into the plot the background of the Finch household in such a way that it not only provides the reader with an in depth introduction to them, but also establishes the time frame for the novel. From the phrases 'Being Southerners', 'bought three slaves', 'established a homestead on the banks of the Alabama River' and 'the disturbance between the north and the south', among many others, establish the location of Maycomb as a southern state, and gave us an approximate idea about the time frame that the novel has been set in, ie. A few years post the American Civil War. The description of Simon Finch's escape from England and settlement in Alabama not only sketch out Scout and Jem's ancestry, but also provides an interesting story about adventure and success, that keeps the reader hooked. Before they realise, the readers are caught in the intricately woven web of Scout's family history, and they find themselves yearning to know more.

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