In "To Kill a Mockingbird" how does Tom Robinson symbolize the mockingbird?

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ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom Robinson is accused of raping and beating Mayella Ewell.  He is a black man who can not possibly get a fair trial.  He symbolizes a mockingbird, because as Atticus tells the children it is a sin to kill a mockingbird.  One of Scout and Jem's neighbors tells them that Atticus is correct it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, because a mockingbird never harmed anyone.  Tom Robinson never harmed anyone either.  He is an innoncent and has no ill intent toward anyone. 

"Tom’s goodness is recognized by very few of the characters in the book. His willingness to help Mayella with the many tasks she has to perform around the house is seen by the white community as inappropriate. They can not understand why a black man would feel pity or compassion towards a white woman. They themselves would not feel the urge to help an Ewell, the most despised of the white population and so, to them, the only reason for Tom to offer such help would be for a sinister purpose.

mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition to this, Tom Robinson is shot down as he was trying to escape prison.  The fact that he was shot is significant, because of what Atticus forbade the children to do in the beginning of the book:  Don't shoot a mockingbird.  And, Tom was shot down.  Also, Atticus deems the type of people that would degrade, or take advantage of Tom, "trash".  He states, "There's nothing more sickening to me than a low-grade white man who'll take advantage of a Negro".  Even taking advantage of an innocent black man was akin to shooting a mockingbird, in the eyes of Atticus.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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