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The most immediate function of the sentence “It was a time of vague optimism for some of the people: Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself.” is to:
Introduce one of the novel’s main themes, by mentioning fear for the first time.
Invite the audience to ponder a paradox, the idea of having nothing to fear but fear.
Situate Scout’s childhood at a particular historical moment, by making an allusion.
Include important information about the prevailing attitudes, by saying how folks felt.
Establish the author’s literary authority, by displaying impressive figurative language.