To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover
Start Your Free Trial

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

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom is recognized as a symbolic mockingbird because his efforts to create innocent beauty in his world take him down a path that eventually claims his life. Atticus has told his children that it's sinful to kill mockingbirds, and Miss Maudie elaborates that mockingbirds only create beautiful music for people to enjoy.

Expert Answers info

Julianne Hansen, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

bookM.A. from Clemson University


calendarEducator since 2019

write2,055 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Through the words of Atticus and Miss Maudie, the mockingbird comes to symbolize the innocent creatures in the world who simply try to spread beauty wherever they land. Tom Robinson, an African American man who is met with scorn in Maycomb in this historical context, tries to help Mayella Ewell around her place because he realizes that she doesn't really have anyone else who will do so. When Mayella tells Tom that she needs help, he surely recognizes the inherent danger in the situation. Black men accused of inappropriate contact with white women were lynched in the South during this era, regardless of the veracity of the white woman's claims. This was a very real danger, yet Tom willingly reaches out to Mayella in an attempt to lighten her burden.

Sure enough, Tom finds himself defending his efforts in court after Mayella and her racist father claim he's raped and beaten Mayella. The evidence clearly indicates that due to his physical limitations, Tom could not have inflicted the injuries...

(The entire section contains 5 answers and 1,045 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write10,312 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write11,856 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

mrs-campbell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write2,159 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

ladyvols1 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write1,485 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Science

check Approved by eNotes Editorial