To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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At the end of To Kill a Mockingbird,Scout says that telling people Boo Radley killed Bob Ewell would be "sort of like shootin' a mockingbird." What does that mean? Do you agree that Boo Radley is like...

At the end of To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout says that telling people Boo Radley killed Bob Ewell would be "sort of like shootin' a mockingbird." What does that mean?

Do you agree that Boo Radley is like a mockingbird?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 10, Atticus tells his children that it is considered a sin to kill a mockingbird. Miss Maudie elaborates on Atticus's statement and explains his reasoning by mentioning that mockingbirds do nothing to harm or annoy anyone, and simply make beautiful music for people to enjoy. Mockingbirds are also vulnerable, defenseless beings, which is why people should not shoot them. Throughout the novel, mockingbirds symbolize innocent, harmless, and defenseless beings, like Boo Radley.

At the end of chapter 30, Atticus and Sheriff Tate are discussing who murdered Bob Ewell, and Heck Tate indirectly tells Atticus that Boo Radley killed Bob. However, Sheriff Tate refuses to inform the community about Boo Radley's heroics because the unwanted attention will harm Boo, who is extremely shy and reclusive. When Atticus asks his daughter if she understands Sheriff Tate's reasoning for protecting Boo, she says,

"Well, it’d be sort of like shootin‘ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?" (280)

Essentially, Scout metaphorically applies her father's lesson by depicting Boo Radley as a symbolic mockingbird. Given the fact that Boo Radley is a shy, vulnerable person, who spreads joy by giving Scout and Jem gifts, his portrayal as a symbolic mockingbird is accurate.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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First, to correct the above post, it was Boo Radley who came to the children's rescue and killed Bob Ewell. Boo is one of the human mockingbirds in the story, an innocent, childlike character who has been accused of acts he did not commit. (Tom Robinson is another of the adult human mockingbirds, while most of the children in the novel also display the innocence found in the mockingbird.) Sheriff Tate decided to cover-up the true nature of Bob's death. By declaring Boo Bob's killer--though his actions were in self-defense and Boo would almost certainly have been exonerated--it would have brought Boo into the "limelight" of a public investigation. Boo had carefully hidden himself from public view for decades, and Tate knew that a public trial would be the worst thing possible for Boo--a hero who had saved the children's lives. So Sheriff Tate concocted the story that "Bob Ewell fell on his knife" and accidentally killed himself rather than expose Boo and "draggin him with his shy ways into the limelight..." To Heck, "It's a sin, and I'm not about to have it on my head." Scout agreed, telling Atticus that

"... it'd be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?"  (Chapter 30)

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homer909 | Student

Throughout the book, the "shooting a mockingbird" is used as a phrase to mean killing innocence. Boo did NOT kill Bob Ewell. Atticus tells his kids that they have no reason to go around harming mockingbirds since they have done no harm to them. Draw the parallel.

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