Imagery In To Kill A Mockingbird

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mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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There are several examples of imagery and allusions in To Kill a Mockingbird. You could list something from every chapter in the book. Allusions are meant to give an expression to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly, an indirect or passing reference to something. 

The first use of imagery, is the description of the Radley house. This is probably one of the most vivid uses in the story. "The Radley place jutted into a sharp curve beyond our house. Walking south, one faced its porch, the sidewalk turned and ran beside the lot. The house was low, was once white with a deep front porch and green shutters, but had long ago darkened to the color of the slate grey yard around it. Rain rotted shingles drooped over the eaves of the veranda; oak trees kept the sun away. The remains of a picket drunkenly guarded the front yard, a 'swept' yard that was never swept where Johnson grass and rabbit tobacco grew in abundance." Just by this imagery, you can picture what the Radley place looked liked. The descriptions of the house and yard, tells you who the house once was, but has now become. This is just one example of imagery in the story. 

Allusions are throughout the entire story. Here are just a couple: The disturbance between the north and south, here is talking about The Civil War. Dracula, in 1931, this was one of the most popular and famous stories on Dracula. Meridian, Mississippi, just a quick mention of the town. No money to buy it with, talking about the Great Depression. Scout is setting up how most of the town is still dealing with the effects of the Great Depression. Egyptians walked this way, here Jem is saying that Egyptians walk a certain way, based on pictures he had seen. Mockingbird, this is probably one of the best allusions in the book, the mockingbird is a bird found in North American, and known only for its vocal imitations. 

As you can see, the book is full of imagery and allusions. Harper Lee had a wonderful way with words. She describes things that make you feel like you are there. She cleverly sets up your suspense and imagination from the very beginning.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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  • In Chapter 2, Miss Caroline introduces herself as being from Winston County, a county from the far northern part of Alabama (Maycomb is a fictional name for Lee hometown of Monroeville, in the southern part of the state). Not only is Miss Caroline not from the area, she is from the one county that did not join the Confederacy in the Civil War, a fact that "every child in Maycomb County knew..."
  • Since the time setting of the novel is the 1930s, some of the programs of the New Deal, begun by President F.D. Roosevelt, are mentioned; for instance the W.P.A., or Works Progress Administration, such as the construction of buildings and roads by unemployed men. 
  • Relief checks - This was government money provided to needy families; nowadays these checks are called "welfare checks."
  • Also in Chapter 2, Jem explains to Scout that her new teacher uses the Dewey system, but he mistakes the Dewey Decimal System, a system of library classification used since 1876 when created by Melvin Dewey. Jem mistakes Melvin Dewey with John Dewey a psychologist, philosopher, and reformer of education, whose progressive theories influenced learning. He is the father of experiential education, the idea that people learn from experience.
  • Robert E. Lee Ewell - The reprobate Bob Ewell is ironically named after the Confederate general whom history records as a man who "remains one of the most revered, iconic figures of American military leadership." This makes his character even more of a parody than he demonstrates himself in the courtroom.
  • The Emmett Till Case - The trial of Tom Robinson is loosely based upon the 1941 beating and hanging of Emmett Till, an African-American teen in Mississippi charged with flirting with a white woman. Till's death and open-casket funeral exposed the barbarism of lynching but also on the limitations and vulnerabilities of American democracy in that time.
  • Adolf Hitler and the Nazis - In her class Miss Gates speaks of the atrocities of the Nazis in their treatment of Jews; an incident used to point to her hypocrisy as she expresses racial bias later on.

Imagery

In Chapter 1, the description of the Radley home contains vivid sensory images:

"The Radley place jutted into a sharp curve beyond our house.... The house... was once white with a deep front porch and green shutters, but had long ago darkened to the color of the slate-grey yard around it. Rain rotted shingles drooped over the eaves of the veranda; oak trees kept the sun away. The remains of a picket drunkenly guarded the front yard-a ‘swept’yard that was never swept-where Johnson grass and rabbit-tobacco grew in abundance.

At first we saw nothing but a kudzu-covered front porch, but a closer inspection revealed an arc of water defending from the leaves and splashing in the yellow circle of the street light, some ten feet from source to earth....

Another description with imagery is that of Scout's images of Atticus in Chapter 16:

... the memory of Atticus calmly folding his newspaper and pushing back his hat became Atticus standing in the middle of an empty waiting street, pushing up his glasses. 

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