In Harper Lee's novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, the mockingbird symbol is kept alive throughout the narrative, continually reminding us of the themes with which it is associated.Trace the development...

In Harper Lee's novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, the mockingbird symbol is kept alive throughout the narrative, continually reminding us of the themes with which it is associated.Trace the development of this symbol throughout the novel linking it to characters and backing up your opinions with quotes from the novel. 

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Looking at the title of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a reader could be forgiven for having certain expectations which, by the end of the book will have become irrelevant. The mockingbird symbol reflects a state of innocence which can so easily be overshadowed by, sometimes wicked and sometimes just misguided, characters. The need to retain the mockingbird symbol throughout the novel is emphasized when events take place that threaten the moral fiber of humanity. Atticus, ever mindful of the injustices that take place, reminds Jem that, if he does shoot birds, rather than the target his father would prefer him to shoot, he must take care because, "it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird."  A mockingbird, as Miss Maudie points out,

 “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. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Even Miss Maudie herself is not fully accepted in the Maycomb community because she remains unmarried and does not fulfill an expected role.

Several of the book's characters suffer because of the prejudices that exist in Maycomb; even when they do no harm and do not deserve to be judged or have their innocence denied them.  

Dill is one such character. He has an active imagination and his friendship is a welcome relief for Jem and Scout. He tries to make his unpleasant reality and his untenable home situation more bearable through pretense and, during the summers, at least, he succeeds.

Boo Radley, although he only actually makes a physical appearance at the end of the book, has suffered enormously from preconceived ideas of who he is. The children have spent countless hours trying to coax him out of his house and only now do they come to realize that he is deserving of their respect. Exposing Boo to the adulation that would follow the revelation of his heroic acts, would destroy his quiet and unassuming character in much the same way as killing a mockingbird would destroy all sense of innocence. 

When Scout and Jem approach the police station, the fact that Scout's actions halt an assault on Tom Robinson, prompts Atticus to reflect that "maybe we need a police force of children." This highlights the obtuse nature of the people of Maycomb who are quick to recognize faults in others but never their own. This is reinforced when Scout engages Mr Cunningham and Atticus refuses to judge Cunningham's actions, which were clearly malicious towards Tom and simply refers to his "blind spots."

Atticus has always tried to make his children understand that fairness and dignity are to be striven for. He wants his children to never judge another "until you climb into his skin and walk around in it," because preconceived ideas can destroy relationships and whole towns. The mockingbird symbol is very significant as Atticus fights for justice for Tom Robinson, effectively defending the mockingbird analogy, even though he knows that others will judge, not only Tom, but Atticus himself. Tom Robinson is the ultimate representation of innocence and his character reveals how unjust society can harm and destroy all that is good.

If only people would take the time to appreciate the things around them - such as the mockingbird in all its simplicity- life would be different because even people, Atticus points out to Scout, "usually are (real nice) once you see them." 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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