How is the rabid dog a symbol of racism in "To Kill a Mockingbird"? What relation is the courthouse to Atticus?

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jsmckenna eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The rabid dog is a symbol of the racism that is in the town.  Racism, like the disease of rabies, will continue to spread unless it is "shot" down in its path.  The rabid dog will also become sicker and sicker until the disease destroys the dog's body, causing paralysis and eventually, death.  That is what racism does, it paralyzes growth in a community and will destroy any semblence of that community in its wake.  Atticus' quiet strenth that Jem and Scout witness and were previously unaware of, his ability as a sharp shooter, eradicates the rabid dog, as he tries to do with the racism in the town by trying to give Tom Robinson a fair trial.

The courthouse, as a symbol of Atticus, is the quiet strength that would hopefully be the backbone of eradicating racism in the town.  Atticus is intent on giving Tom his day in court to prove his innocence in front of both the white and black members of the community.  The races are separated upon entering the courtroom; this was commonplace for the setting of the novel, however, the black people are seated in the upper tier of the courtroom.  Perhaps we can see this as an elevation of the statis of black people to come, something that Atticus has done in his appropriate defense of Tom.

reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The rabid dog is an excellent symbol for racism. When one is racist, he acts without reason, simply following the lead of others, not using any reasoning or critical thinking because of the disease called prejudice, judging others without cause. Because of the disease, rabies, the rabid dog cannot use his thinking process. He simply wants to bite, to hurt someone. The racist also wants to hurt someone, paradoxically, to bite. Unfortunately, the rabid dog has a reason for his behavior, a real physical illness called rabies. The racist has a disease also; however, it is not a diagnosed physical sickness, it is a sickness of the heart and soul. Atticus is the only one who can kill the rabid dog with one shot: Atticus symbolizes honesty and integrity. Unfortunately, Atticus as a metaphor for the courthouse is all too real. Justice cannot free Tom Robinson as there appears to be no cure for racism!

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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