To Kill a Mockingbird


Story Symbols and Themes

Symbols in the story are characters, figures, objects, colors, or other items that can be used to represent concepts and ideas on an abstract level.

The Mockingbird - The most significant symbol in the story is the mockingbird. The book's title is not actually tied to the plot in a concrete way, like some books. The symbolic weight of the title, however, is much greater. Overall, the story is about innocence, and how easily it can be damaged and even destroyed by the evil in the world. The mockingbird represents innocence, so the idea of killing a mockingbird means destroying a person's innocence about the world and his or her place in it. There are many mockingbirds in the book, including Tom Robinson, Boo Radley, Dill, Jem, and even Mr. Raymond. They are innocents, but their contact with the evil of society and the world around them has injured them. In some cases, it has completely destroyed them. There are several times in the novel where the connection between mockingbirds and innocence is made explicitly, helping to further enforce the book's message. Even Jem and Scout having "Finch" as a last name is a reminder of the fragility of innocence and how that is often damaged.

Boo Radley - The attitude that Jem and Scout have about Boo Radley changes throughout the novel. That is a very important symbol, because the way they develop and age shows the innocence of childhood and how it morphs into something closer to a moral perspective that would be seen in an adult. Early in the book, Boo is not a real person to the children. He is just a "ghost" of sorts, built out of gossip, ideas, and superstition. He starts to become more real as he leaves gifts in the knothole of the tree and fixes the pants that Jem leaves behind when he crawls under the fence. They are more intrigued by him in that way, but he is still not completely a real person. He only becomes completely real to Scout at the very end of the story, when he saves the children from an attack by Bob Ewell.

The way that Scout...

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