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In chapter ten of To Kill a Mockingbird, what is the symbolic meaning of the mockingbird?

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jennay144 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 23, 2012 at 3:10 PM via web

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In chapter ten of To Kill a Mockingbird, what is the symbolic meaning of the mockingbird?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 23, 2012 at 4:08 PM (Answer #1)

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Atticus tells the children it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because "they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us." Mockingbirds are not harmful so it would be wrong to hurt them. The mockingbird is symbolic of Tom Robinson and Boo Radley. Both characters never harm anyone. In fact, they both keep to themselves, only interacting with others in the form of help. Tom helps Mayella. Boo helps the children most significantly when he saves them from Mr. Ewell. The mockingbird, and these two characters, symbolize innocence and generosity. It is prejudice that clouds many of the Maycomb residents' judgment. They can't see that Tom and Boo are mockingbirds in this symbolic sense because their preconceived notions about the two of them are founded on racism and gossip. It is fitting at the end of the novel when Atticus agrees with Scout that most people are nice "when you finally see them." 

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