In Chapter 10, Atticus tells Scout and Jem that “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Find three examples of that advice being echoed with similar imagery in this chapter. How do these examples...

In Chapter 10, Atticus tells Scout and Jem that “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Find three examples of that advice being echoed with similar imagery in this chapter. How do these examples help you better understand the meaning of Atticus’s advice and the message that Harper Lee intends readers to take away from the story?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 10, Atticus tells his children that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird and Miss Maudie elaborates on his comment. Maudie explains to the children that mockingbirds are innocent, defenseless beings that spread joy to the world and cause no harm to others. Throughout the novel, mockingbirds symbolize innocent people, who need protection from malevolent, callous individuals.

1. Following Tom's wrongful conviction, he is sent to Enfield Prison Farm, where he attempts to escape and is shot seventeen times. In chapter 25, Scout reads B. B. Underwood's editorial in the Maycomb Tribune, where he compares Tom's death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds. Tom Robinson is a symbolic mockingbird in Underwood's analogy. Similar to a mockingbird, Tom is a defenseless being, who causes no harm to anyone and does not deserve to be killed.

2. In chapter 28, Jem and Scout are depicted as symbolic mockingbirds because they are innocent, defenseless beings, who are vulnerable to malevolent people. Their last name, Finch, also indicates their status as symbolic songbirds. As they are walking home from the Maycomb Halloween festival, Bob Ewell attacks them. They are defenseless against Bob's attack and rely on Boo Radley's intervention to save their lives.

3. The most notable scene where Harper Lee illustrates the message behind protecting symbolic mockingbirds takes place at the end of chapter 30. After Sheriff Tate explains to Atticus that he refuses to disclose Boo Radley's heroics to the community in order to prevent Boo from receiving unwanted attention, Atticus asks his daughter if she understands Sheriff Tate's reasoning. Scout metaphorically applies Atticus's lesson and compares Boo Radley to a mockingbird by saying, "Well, it’d be sort of like shootin‘ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?" (Lee, 281) Similar to a mockingbird, Boo Radley spreads joy and is a vulnerable being in need of protection.

hannahhunt09 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus says that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because the mockingbird symbolizes innocence. Mockingbirds do not do anything to hurt others, they just sing and make beautiful music.

One example in this chapter which highlights Atticus's wisdom is the rabid dog. The dog, like the mockingbird, is innocent. However, his right to live has been forfeited because he is no longer harmless, so Atticus is forced to shoot him in order to protect people.

A second example is Tom Robinson, the main "mockingbird" of this book. He is innocent, kind, and does not want to hurt others, but he continues to be hurt and persecuted throughout the novel.

Finally, Scout and Jem, as children, are mockingbirds to their father. He wants to protect their innocence. In this chapter specifically, he protects them from a mad dog, and in the course of this situation they find out he was also protecting them from knowing certain things about his past. For instance, he has kept the secret of how well he can shoot and how that skill came to be.