Innocence, or the loss of innocence, is a theme that permeates many great works of literature. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is no exception. The novel compares many of its characters to mockingbirds, a symbol of pure innocence. Two of the most prominent of the novel’s mockingbirds are Tom Robinson, a black man wrongly accused and convicted of rape, and Boo Radley, an outcast from society who spends his days like a hermit locked up in his house. Tom provides something beneficial to society through his work and family, and contributes to the town as a whole much like a mockingbird’s ballad, while Boo remains separate from the society of Maycomb County, and barely contributes to it. Additionally, Tom tries to protect himself and his family from society’s prejudices by telling the truth in a court of law, and is killed for it, while Boo kills Bob Ewell to protect his “family” of Jem and Scout from Bob’s attack, showing a loss of innocence in Boo. These two arguments prove that Tom Robinson is a better representative of the symbolic mockingbird than Boo Radley.
Scout and Jem, who are the main characters of the novel, learn from their father, Atticus Finch, that to kill a mockingbird is a sin. When asking their neighbour, Miss Maudie Atkinson, why this is so, she replies “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (94) Tom Robinson is a better representation of the mockingbird because he contributes to society, whereas Boo Radley remains a hermit for the majority of the book, only coming out on one occasion during the novel. Tom Robinson is a dedicated member of the First Purchase Church, works for Mr. Link Deas in his field all year round, and tries to help Bob Ewell’s daughter, Mayella, on numerous occasions out of the goodness of his heart, shown through his testimony...
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