To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Throughout the novel, mockingbirds symbolically represent innocent, defenseless beings, who bring peace and joy to the world. In chapter 10, Atticus explains to his children that it is considered a sin to kill a mockingbird. Miss Maudie elaborates on Atticus's statement by mentioning that mockingbirds do nothing to harm or annoy humans and simply make beautiful music for everyone to enjoy. Later on in the novel, Tom Robinson is wrongly convicted and shot while attempting to escape from Enfield Prison Farm. In chapter 25, Scout recalls reading Mr. Underwood's editorial where he compares Tom's death...

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bullgatortail eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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mattyc1996 | Student

Harper Lee uses the symbolism of a mockingbird in several places. A mockingbird as discribed by Maudie is;

"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

Throughout the novel there are 4 main 'mockingbirds'

1- Tom Robinson - He did no harm to anyone (he actually helped Mayella) but was literally killed by the community

2- Boo Radley - Boo never harmed anyone but was victimized by the social prejudice of the community.

3- Atticus - Along with Tom, Atticus is probably the main mockingbird in the novel. Atticus always treated people fairly and was a role model to not only his children but the whole community,yet he has ridiculed for taking on the case of Tom Robinson simply because Tom was a black man and they felt it was wrong that a white man should try and defend him.

4- 2 minor symbolic mockingbirds - not characters

  • Justice - Justice is meant to serve people fairly and not do harm yet it did not produce a just result
  • Childhood Innocence -
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