To Kill a Mockingbird - Symbolism

Topics: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, Truman Capote Pages: 2 (765 words) Published: December 14, 2011
In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the symbolism of the “mockingbird” plays a significant role in the story. The mockingbird comes to represent the idea of true goodness and innocence. In the novel, the theme of the symbol is used to exemplify the innocent ones who are injured by the evil of human nature. Tom Robinson and Arthur (Boo) Radley are the examples of that. Atticus tells Scout and Jem, “Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” (103). Because Scout did not understanding this, Miss Maudie explains to her why Atticus is correct, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, they don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us” (103). Mockingbirds never do anyone any harm, and are not pests in any way. Therefore, it is a sin to kill them.

The case of Tom Robinson vs. the Ewells is an excellent example of a mockingbird being “killed”. He was obviously innocent, yet was found guilty of a crime he did not commit. During the Depression era, racism was a fact of life in America, especially in the south. African-Americans were still highly subjected members of society and second class citizens at best. Many people believed that blacks did not have the same rights as whites. Many times black men were stereotyped as lazy, dishonest, and a danger to society and especially white females. The word of a black man against a white man meant very little to nothing, especially if there was a white woman involved. In the novel, Tom Robinson was convicted of the rape and abuse of Miss Mayella Ewell, whom he was actually trying to help. Atticus made it clear in court that Tom couldn’t have possibly committed the crime but was convicted anyway (232). The evidence is so powerful in Tom’s favor that race is clearly the defining factor in the jury’s decision. Like shooting a mockingbird, Tom was gentle and innocent and his killing was unjustified.

Boo Radley is another example of a...
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