How do Scout and Jem from To Kill a Mockingbird symbolize a mockingbird?  

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 10, Atticus tells his children to make sure they don't shoot any mockingbirds because it is considered a sin to kill one. Miss Maudie then elaborates on Atticus's comment and tells Jem and Scout that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because they are innocent, defenseless creatures, which only spread joy as they sing beautiful melodies outside.

Throughout the novel, mockingbirds symbolize innocent, vulnerable beings like Tom Robinson and Boo Radley. Both characters are compassionate, harmless individuals, who cannot protect themselves against prejudiced community members. Jem and Scout both share similar character traits with Tom Robinson and Boo Radley in that they are also defenseless, innocent people. Jem and Scout are children and do not pose a threat to anyone. They are also compassionate, sympathetic individuals, who follow in the footsteps of their morally upright father.

Similarly to how Atticus attempts to protect Tom from the lynch mob and the prejudiced jury, Boo Radley intervenes and saves Jem and Scout's life when Bob Ewell attacks them. Overall, Jem and Scout are symbolic mockingbirds because they are innocent, defenseless beings, who bring joy to others.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The mockingbird is a symbol of innocence in the novel: Atticus and Miss Maudie explain that the birds don't harm gardens or "nest in corncribs;" they only sing and make people happy. Like a mockingbird, children are generally a joy for most people, free from committing the sins that come with growing up. Atticus' warning to Jem about shooting a mockingbird is not heeded by all people, and some shoot them for fun; Bob Ewell's attempt to harm Jem and Scout is a parallel to such actions. The innocence of Jem and Scout remains throughout the story, though they witness actions that are far from innocent: The Ewells accuse an innocent man of terrible crimes; the jury condemns Tom Robinson in spite of evidence to the contrary; racism is seen among churchgoers and teachers; and they are attacked by a man who seeks revenge on a man by killing his children. Yet in the end, the children survive, and their neighbors will continue to enjoy them for the remainder of their days of innocence.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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