Hi again Cirrus,
The more I read your question, the more clear it becomes that you need
information on the reasons why the Finch family history is discussed
at the outset of the story.
First of all, you have to understand that most of the story is about
race relations in the South in the first part of the 20th century. It
is about the entrenchment of tradition, and the tradition of opression
of one set of people by another, otherwise known as slavery, and the
problems that accompanied its dissolution and continued on into the
time of the story, and in fact continue today.
Scout's relating her family history sets the scene of the story. Her
family were slave owners and farmers on the same piece of land,
"Finch's Landing." Her first American ancestor, Simon, left his
native land to escape religious persecution, but then ironically
became a slave owner in Alabama, in his turn persecuting others
Scout's father Atticus and his brother were the first sons to break
this family tradition and go into professions, Atticus into Law and
Jack into medicine. Scout's ancestors had made only a modest living as
slave-holding farmers, but her father and uncle became professionals,
forsaking agriculture and at least the outward oppression of blacks,
and in doing so, made far better livings than their ancestors,
breaking with family tradition. This brings up the importance of
family tradition in the south, which is another major theme of the
So, to sum up, relating the Finch family history sets the story in
time and tells of the Finch's break with tradition, which is what the
story wants to create; a break with the tradition of oppression.
Hope this answers your question sufficiently. If you need further
clarification, let me know!
Clarification of Answer by
06 Dec 2002 17:27 PST
Ok, it's me one more time, here Cirrus:
We are supposed to put search terms in with our answers, and I
completely forgot, as I answered the question basically by just
looking through the book and having analysed it many classes while in
school, myself. Here, though, are some places to look for
kill mockingbird finch family history
A lot of good extra sources are listed in this class description of
the comparison of Jim Crow Laws and Mockingbird:
There are also tons of other "study guides" out there that I'm sure
you can get through the Google search listed above.
Thanks for the question!