To Kill a Mockingbird

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The novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, like many others of its genre is strongly influenced by the ideas of its author. With this book, Lee has represented her commentaries with symbols or metaphors– although these can sometimes be overlooked too easily in a lengthy novel. The characters she has employed to convey or be subjected to these ideas are referred to as, “the mockingbirds” of the book. Her ideas of who they are and how they should be treated are manifested in this lesson to the children: Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They 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 (Miss Maude, pg.15).” I have chosen to discourse on the mockingbirds: Scout, Boo, and Tom because they best represent the title, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. These mockingbirds are not the same age or alike in appearances, nor do they lead the same lives; the only thing in common between them is that they are all innocent and have all been harmed by society to a certain degree. Had I selected characters that were only innocent (i.e. Dill) — though still deserving of the title of ‘mockingbird’, their presence would not fulfill the task of explaining the title’s relation to the whole book. The character, Scout is one of the less obvious mockingbirds because her troubles are of a lesser degree than her two counterparts. For Scout, the factors at play that led to her being ostracized by her former group of friends (Jem and Dill) were inevitable. To put it simply, she was ostracized because she is a girl and the boys around her had reached a certain age in which their views towards her had changed. According to some behavioral studies of children, it is pre-adolescent groups which are generally homogenous (members of the same sex), which differ from the behavioral patterns of the children in the book who had just begun to exclude Scout during their adolescence. In theory, what Scout should be noticing is that Jem and Dill want to include more girls in their group, which is the case with the adolescent stage when groups diversify and accept members of the opposite sex (Piaget’s theory of perception and cognition). However, it is also true that the role of environment is very important in the development of a child’s behavior (John Watson’s theory of adolescent behaviorism). In a town like Maycomb during the 1930’s, where men were the dominant gender and women were generally housewives, it is understandable how these kind of ideas would be absorbed by Jem [from his surroundings] and in turn influence his treatment of Scout. The evidence for the latter statement is clear when Jem says, “[Scout,] I declare to the Lord you’re gettin’ more like a girl everyday! (pg.56)” By ostracizing her, they have punished the innocent–they killed a mockingbird, when all it wanted to do was sing or in Scout’s case, to play. Oblivious to why they might do this, Scout responds by turning to Miss Maude for support, someone who could perhaps relate to Scout from her standpoint as a woman. Boo Radley’s situation cannot be solved or comforted so easily—for he has no one to run to for support. In hindsight, his story is a sad one, some citizens feel empathetic towards Boo and the details of his punishment. Put under house arrest by his father being in a gang, he spends the rest of his life in isolation, survived by rumors and myths about his activities. Generally, Boo lived quietly, only making his presence be known by giving presents to “his children” and by coming to their rescue during the fire at Miss Maude’s house and at the time of Bob Ewell’s attack on them. It was the latter appearance that brought him to the attention of the sheriff and had Boo been executed as a result of the killing, it would have been like killing a mockingbird. In the 1930’s this punishment was a very real scenario– even for someone like Boo, because the death penalty was considered...
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