How does Harper Lee make use of language in order to create suspense and mood in Chapter 10 of To Kill a Mockingbird ? 

How does Harper Lee make use of language in order to create suspense and mood in Chapter 10 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 10 of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses repeated words, symbolic language, and words that foreshadow what is to come in order to create mood and suspense.

  • Repetition and suspense

The statement of Scout that her father "didn't do anything" and her repeated use of the question "What can he do?" that Miss Maudie only answers with things that are unimpressive to Scout, suggests that Atticus is not a father about whom children would boast. When, for instance, Miss Maudie replies that Atticus can play a Jew's Harp, Scout rejects this response as of no worth because other children would not be as impressed as they are with the touchdown in a local charity football game that Cecil Jacobs's father makes. 

Also, the fact that Atticus is "old" and "nearly blind" is repeated in Scout's disappointed narration of Atticus's lack of accomplishments and adds to suspense later on in Chapter 10. In addition, the ironic phrases of "Ol' One-Shot" and Atticus's being the "deadest shot" in Maycomb County then give new meaning and significance to the repeated description of Atticus's age and visual ability. For, the children witness in awe their father's skillful use of a rifle as he shoots the rabid bird dog, Tim Johnson.

  • Symbolic language and mood

When Atticus gives the air rifles to the children, he cautions them against shooting innocent mockingbirds that do nothing but sing all day. And, it is no coincidence that the pitiful Tim Johnson, who is shot, is a bird dog. Thus, there is symbolism in his victimization which foreshadows the shooting of another innocent mockingbirdTom [like "Tim"] Robinson [not unlike "Johnson"]. This connection of the mockingbirds and Tim Johnson to Tom Robinson also sets a mood of foreboding that may come to the mind of a thoughtful reader in the later chapters. 

  • Foreshadowing 

The shooting of Tim Johnson, who is a victim of rabies, does seem to suggest the cruel shooting of poor Tom Robinson. A victim of a racially rabid society, Tom is unjustly convicted and, in his desperation, he tries to escape from prison and is then "shot down like a dog." 

Of course, the references to Atticus's blindness foreshadow his conscientious efforts to act as a legal defender who practices blind justice. Then, too, the mention of blindness also foreshadows the blind bigotry of the jury.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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