The story, told by the six-year-old Jean Louise Finch, takes place during three years (1933–35) of the Great Depression in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, the seat of Maycomb County. Nicknamed Scout, she lives with her older brother Jeremy, nicknamed Jem, and their widowed father Atticus, a middle-aged lawyer. Jem and Scout befriend a boy named Dill, who visits Maycomb to stay with his aunt each summer. The three children are terrified, yet fascinated by their neighbor, the reclusive Arthur "Boo" Radley. The adults of Maycomb are hesitant to talk about Boo, and few of them have seen him for many
Judge Taylor appoints Atticus to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who has been accused of raping a young white woman, Mayella Ewell. Although many of Maycomb's citizens disapprove, Atticus agrees to defend Tom to the best of his ability. Other children taunt Jem and Scout for Atticus's actions, calling him a "nigger-lover".