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Tom Robinson is a mockingbird because he is an innocent person who is wronged by society. Tom was accused of rape by Mayella Ewell and her father. He was innocent, and guilty of nothing more than trying to be a good friend to her.
When Atticus gives the children air-rifles, he admonishes them to be careful where they point them.
"I'd rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." (ch 10)
This iconic phrase is where the novel gets its title. Throughout the book there are several people, such as Tom Robinson and Boo Radley, who are ostracized and victims of prejudice. These people are mockingbirds because they did nothing wrong.
Miss Maudie explains why mockingbirds do not hurt anyone, and why they deserve special status.
Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. (ch 10)
Like the mockingbird, Tom does nothing but help Mayella. He busts up her chiffarobe and generally is a good friend. He feels sorry for her because she is alone in her dump with all of those children. In the end, Mayella betrays Tom because she feels trapped and when her father sees them together she does not know what else to do. Yet Tom remains an innocent victim.
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