In To Kill a Mockingbird, how does Harper Lee use the symbol of the mockingbird in the novel?

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses the symbol of the mockingbird to stand for people who do not harm anyone, and even bring them joy, and in turn should be shielded from harm. Throughout the novel, Lee stresses that the immorality of killing mockingbirds is a cornerstone of the philosophy that Atticus Finch teaches his children.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The mockingbird is a central symbol in the novel. The author uses it to represent a type of person who does not cause harm to others and often makes them happy; for that reason they are deserving of other people’s protection. The idea of “killing” a mockingbird about which Atticus Finch frequently speaks is extended into causing any sort of harm to a harmless or an innocent person. Scout grows accustomed to her father’s frequent reminders of the need to be kind and compassionate, which he phrases in turns of sin. However, it is only after the prison guards kill Tom Robinson and she reads B.B. Underwood’s newspaper editorial about “songbirds” that she makes the connection on her own.

The most prominent mockingbird figures are Tom Robinson, who is wrongly convicted of rape and then killed, and Arthur “Boo ” Radley, who stays in his house and harms no one. Not only was Tom falsely accused, he was also trying to be helpful. Despite his innocence, he is tried and convicted based...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 738 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on May 27, 2020