Homework Help

Atticus tells Jem that he can kill all the bluejays he wants but it's a sin to kill a...

user profile pic

bethparker | Student, Grade 11

Posted March 23, 2010 at 5:38 PM via web

dislike 1 like

Atticus tells Jem that he can kill all the bluejays he wants but it's a sin to kill a mockingbird. What does this mean?

the mockingbirds in the book and explanation of qoute and why atticus says this.

2 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

luannw | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted March 23, 2010 at 8:12 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

Atticus says this to Jem in chapter 10 when Jem gets a gun for the first time.  Like many young boys, Jem just wants to shoot whatever he can.  Atticus tells him he can shoot bluejays because they are considered a nuisance bird.  Bluejays make a raucous sound, they steal other birds' nests and drive away other birds, etc.  Mockingbirds, however, are not a nuisance bird.  Mockingbirds, according to Atticus, simply sing their hearts out for our entertainment.  The idea is that it is wrong to harm something - like a mockingbird - that does no harm and, in fact, actually does good.  This is one of the central themes of the book.  Boo Radley is like the mockingbird.  Boo does no harm to anyone with his odd ways and by the end of the story, has actually done a great deal of good by saving Jem and Scout from Bob Ewell.  The children, especially early in the story, delighted in playing games that mocked Boo Radley and made fun of him.  After Boo saves the children and Sheriff Tate realizes that Jem didn't kill Bob Ewell, but that Boo Radley did, Tate refuses to arrest Boo.  He says that it would be wrong to force him, with his shy ways, into the limelight that would ensue if people knew how heroic he'd been.  Scout, hearing this, tells her dad, who is concerned about the ethics and legality of it, that bringing attention to Boo would be like shooting a mockingbird.

user profile pic

missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 24, 2010 at 1:16 AM (Answer #2)

dislike 1 like

Atticus is a good teacher who enlightens his children with teachable moments at every possible moment. The effect of this on the reader is that we think about the moral or truth Atticus presents as well.

Atticus wants his children to be fair to all people, but particularly to people who have done nothing wrong. I think this quote does more than show us his feelings about the other innocent people in the book: Boo and Tom. With the phrase "kill all the bluejays you want" I think Atticus is showing that people deserve consequences for their actions. Bob Ewell should have been locked away long before he had the opportunity to attack the children. Conversely, Tom Robinson should have been allowed to live a peaceful life with his wife and children because he did nothing wrong.

Likewise, in society, we have to hold those who do bad accountable and praise those who do us good.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes