To Map a Mockingbird

Maycomb is not on any map of the real world, but that doesn't mean it can't be mapped.

To Map a Mockingbird

Modern classics don't come any more classic, or more modern, than To Kill a Mockingbird. Told from the naive perspective of a small girl, this tale of institutionalised racism in a small Southern town in the 1930s still resonates in today's America — and beyond. First published in 1960, it has sold over 40 million copies worldwide. In 2009, Mockingbird was voted "most inspirational book ever," beating the Bible into second place.  


The story is set in Maycomb, a fictionalised version of author Harper Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Maycomb is not on any map of the real world, but that doesn't mean it can't be mapped. There are plenty of topographical clues in the book. Inspired perhaps by James Joyce's boast that “if Dublin suddenly disappeared from the earth, it could be reconstructed from my book (Ulyssessee also #518)," someone has taken those clues and reconstructed Maycomb as what it may have looked like in the writer's mind. 

And here are all those places so familiar to readers of the book, now all together in one map: the Finch house, hemmed in between the houses of Miss Stephanie Crawford and Miss Rachel Haverford. Next, the Radley place, backing out onto the schoolyard. Down the road, toward the town centre, the Maycomb County jail, flanked by Tyndal's hardware store and the offices of the Maycomb Tribune. On the other side of the town square, the Maycomb County Courthouse features prominently (as it does in the book). Across the railroad tracks — and on the wrong side of the tracks, socially speaking — are the church and the quarters of Maycomb's black residents. The map even marks off the outer limits of the area wherein the Finch children were allowed to play.

If you're not a literary purist, you could also reconstruct Maycomb from the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), starring Gregory Peck as the saintly attorney Atticus Finch. Universal Studios considered shooting the movie in Monroeville, but the town had changed too much since the mid-1930s. So the studio created a "more authentic" version of Maycomb on its own lot. Location scouts found a collection of "Southern-looking" clapboard houses in L.A. in just the right state of disrepair. They were about to be demolished to make way for a freeway extension. Universal dismantled them just in time, rebuilding them on the studio lot.

The courthouse interiors used in the movie were a duplicate of those in the actual Monroe County Courthouse in Monroeville — now a museum dedicated to Mockingbird. In total, this movie version of Maycomb consisted of over 30 buildings — just a few less than on this map. The final fate of that fictional town is not known; in all likelihood, it was demolished after filming, perhaps a few buildings were recycled for later productions. If any bird's eye view survives, let me know. It would be nice to see how it compares to this "literary" map of Maycomb.

 

Map found here at the Mockingbird page of GGCA English.

 

Strange Maps #738 

Seen a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

What early US presidents looked like, according to AI-generated images

"Deepfakes" and "cheap fakes" are becoming strikingly convincing — even ones generated on freely available apps.

Abraham Lincoln, George Washington

Magdalene Visaggio via Twitter
Technology & Innovation
  • A writer named Magdalene Visaggio recently used FaceApp and Airbrush to generate convincing portraits of early U.S. presidents.
  • "Deepfake" technology has improved drastically in recent years, and some countries are already experiencing how it can weaponized for political purposes.
  • It's currently unknown whether it'll be possible to develop technology that can quickly and accurately determine whether a given video is real or fake.
Keep reading Show less

Catacombs of Paris: The city of darkness finds its new raison d'être

Ancient corridors below the French capital have served as its ossuary, playground, brewery, and perhaps soon, air conditioning.

Excerpt from a 19th century map of the Paris Catacombs, showing the labyrinthine layout underground (in color) beneath the straight-lined structures on the surface (in grey).

Credit: Inspection Générale des Carrières, 1857 / Public domain
Strange Maps
  • People have been digging up limestone and gypsum from below Paris since Roman times.
  • They left behind a vast network of corridors and galleries, since reused for many purposes — most famously, the Catacombs.
  • Soon, the ancient labyrinth may find a new lease of life, providing a sustainable form of air conditioning.
Keep reading Show less

Baby's first poop predicts risk of allergies

Meconium contains a wealth of information.

Surprising Science
  • A new study finds that the contents of an infants' first stool, known as meconium, can predict if they'll develop allergies with a high degree of accuracy.
  • A metabolically diverse meconium, which indicates the initial food source for the gut microbiota, is associated with fewer allergies.
  • The research hints at possible early interventions to prevent or treat allergies just after birth.
Keep reading Show less
Mind & Brain

Big think: Will AI ever achieve true understanding?

If you ask your maps app to find "restaurants that aren't McDonald's," you won't like the result.

Quantcast