How is Mr. Underwood's editorial in the Maycomb Tribune similar to Atticus's advice to Jem and Scout when they receive their air rifles in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mr. Underwood's editorial in the Macon Tribune after the shooting of Tom Robinson is comparable to Atticus's advice to Jem and Scout when they receive their air-rifles because both bring up the mockingbird motif.

In Chapter 9, after their father Scout describes her father's attributes; she explains that he gave up hunting because he felt that he had an unfair advantage over animals because of his keen eyesight. He cautions his children after having given them air rifles, saying that he prefers that they not shoot mockingbirds because, unlike bluejays, they do not tamper with gardens, nest in corncribs, eat the eggs of other birds, or bother anything. 
When Mr. Underwood rails in his editorial against the bias of the community that has been directed gratuitously directed at the innocent Tom Robinson, he writes that

...it was a sin to kill cripples, be they standing, sitting, or escaping. He likened Tom's death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds [mockingbirds and such] by hunters and children....

Mr. Underwood, like Atticus, realizes that the white community has had an unfair advantage over the innocent "Negro," Tom Robinson, just as humans with guns have an unfair advantage over mockingbirds. In each case the cruelty is gratuitous.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the beginning of Chapter 10, Jem and Scout are shooting their air rifles, and Atticus instructs them not to shoot any mockingbirds. Atticus considers it a sin to kill a mockingbird, and Maudie elaborates on the reasoning behind his statement. Mockingbirds are innocent beings that cause no harm and sing sweet songs for everyone to enjoy. Throughout the story, mockingbirds symbolize any innocent being. Atticus is essentially telling his children that it is wrong to harm an innocent being, whether it is a bird or a human.

Throughout Mr. Underwood's editorial, he writes that it is a sin to kill cripples. He also compares Tom's death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds. Similar to Atticus's lesson in Chapter 10, Mr. Underwood also believes that it is wrong to harm an innocent being. Tom Robinson is a symbolic mockingbird throughout the story, which is why Mr. Underwood compares Tom's death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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