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What are some literary devices in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and how do I do...

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carlathelus | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 2, 2010 at 7:49 AM via web

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What are some literary devices in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and how do I do an analysis?

I'm trying to do my homework, and I forgot how to do the literary devices and analysis. If someone can just give me an example, it would be very helpful. Thanks.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 3, 2010 at 12:13 PM (Answer #1)

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You may wish to add metaphor to your list of literary devices.  For, metaphor is what moves literay works and lends great impact. And, certainly it is metaphor in To Kill a Mockingbird that advances and develops the narrative.  Here are the important metaphors in Harper Lee's work:

  • the mockingbird - This metaphor represents innocence and harmlessness.  It occurs five times in the novel
  1. In the title the metaphor of mockingbird makes the novel itself a metaphor for the death of innocence in the children--a bildungsroman--and for an indictment on prejudicial mores of the society of Maycomb.
  2. When Jem and Scout are given air guns
  3. When B. B. Underwood writes about Tom Robinson's death in his newspaper column
  4. When the mockingbird sings right before Bob Ewell attacks Jem and Scout
  5. When Scout agrees with Atticus that prosecuting Boo for Ewell's murder would be like killing a mockingbird.
  • Boo Radley - This character is a metaphor for the fear of the children as well as the fear of the townspeople.  They fear that if they adhere to social more they will be like Boo Radley and become isolated from society.
  • Raymond Dolphus - He, too, is a metaphor for social isolation that results from acting on one's own conscience
  • Guns - They represent a false strength, not a true inner strength that comes from doing what is right or having the courage to find drug addition as Mrs. Dubose has done.
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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 2, 2010 at 8:16 AM (Answer #2)

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Well there are a whole bunch of literary devices and To Kill a Mockingbird utilizes most of them.  Below are two links you might find helpful.  The first is a chapter by chapter analysis (which will have literary terms throughout) and the other is a basic guide to the terms.

Here is a list of some simple ones to get you started:

  1. internal conflict - problems characters face inside themselves, like major decisions
  2. external conflict - problems between characters and outside forces, like other characters or nature.
  3. point-of-view - first person (narrator is Scout)
  4. symbolism - when an object in the story represents a deeper meaning.  Example - the mockingbird.
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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 2, 2010 at 2:34 PM (Answer #3)

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My colleague gave you some very good advice.  In fact, I don't have much to add.  The literary devices are generally easy to recognize once you remember what they are..  It's the analysis which is a little tougher to do if it's been awhile or if you don't do it very often.

Take, for example, point of view (POV).  You've identified that as first person in this novel--Scout tells the story.  Your analysis would include determining what having Scout as the narrator means.  For example, do we (readers) know more or less for having a young girl tell this story?  Can we trust what we hear from her?  Do we need to interpret anything she says before we take it as truth? 

It's these kinds of questions which help you get beyond the what (1st person POV) to the why (how the story is different for having Scout as our narrator).

Lori Steinbach

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