How did Mr. Underwood, in his editorial on Tom Robinson's death, evoke the symbol of the mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

    Although the character of newspaper editor Braxton Bragg Underwood does not otherwise fit the bill as one of the "mockingbirds" in the Harper Lee novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, his editorial following the death of Tom Robinson does more closely resemble this idea of innocence and purity.
    Underwood, who supposedly was not a lover of Negroes, had silently defended Atticus at the jail when the lynch party showed up to take Tom Robinson away. Now, following Robinson's death, Underwood's editorial borrowed from Atticus's own saying that "it was a sin to kill a mockingbird."

... Mr. Underwood didn't write about miscarriages of justice, he was writing so children could understand. Mr. Underwood simply figured it was a sin to kill cripples... He likened Tom's death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children...

It was a "senseless killing." Atticus had proven without a doubt that Tom could not have been the killer, but

... in the secret courts of men's hearts, Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed. 

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 25, Scout mentions that Mr. Underwood wrote an editorial following the death of Tom Robinson. Mr. Underwood believed that it was a sin to kill cripples. In the editorial, Scout says that Mr. Underwood likened Tom's death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children. Throughout the novel, mockingbirds symbolize innocent, harmless individuals who cannot defend themselves. When Atticus tells his children that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, he is essentially saying that it is wrong to harm innocent beings. Tom Robinson is a symbolic mockingbird throughout the novel because he is an innocent person who doesn't cause harm to anyone. Tom is also a black man, which means he has few defenses against the prejudiced community of Maycomb. Mr. Underwood's editorial illuminates the symbolism associated with mockingbirds in the novel. 

kellyjellybelly | Student

It's a sin to kill a mocking bird, as it is a sin to kill a crippled man.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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