What are some metaphors in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird?  

One metaphor in To Kill a Mockingbird is Atticus's advice for Scout to "climb into [someone's] skin and walk around in it" (ch. 3). By this, he means that in order to understand someone, you should try to see things from their perspective.

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Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird is filled with metaphors. In fact, even the title hints at one that serves as the guiding metaphor for the entire story. A mockingbird fills the world with song. It is an innocent creature that does no harm to anyone, and to kill it would be a sin. The mockingbird points to Boo Radley, who, in his own way, is also innocent and provides beauty to the world (even though most people never notice). Scout begins to understand this when she notes that forcing Boo Radley into the public eye would be like "shootin' a mockingbird."

Earlier in the story, Scout uses another metaphor for Boo Radley. She calls him a "malevolent phantom." This is, of course, long before she actually meets Boo and learns something about who he really is.

As Scout grows, she learns all kinds of things and sometimes expresses them with metaphors. "I tried to climb into Jem's skin and walk around in it," she notes at one point when she is trying to understand her brother's moodiness. She learns how to appreciate summer, too, and she describes it creatively, saying that it “was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots ... everything good to eat ... a thousand colors in a parched landscape.” These metaphors give readers a deep sense of what summer is like for Scout and Jem as they grow up.

Another interesting metaphor appears when Atticus has to attend a special session of the state legislature. "The Governor was eager to scrape a few barnacles off the ship of state," Scout notes. Apparently, there were some reforms the Governor wanted accomplished immediately, some difficulties he wanted to get rid of, some hassles that needed attention. The metaphor is quite apt and gives readers an appealing mental picture.

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In a sense, the very title To Kill A Mockingbird refers to the metaphor for innocence that is imbued throughout this novel. Both Tom Robinson and Arthur (Boo) Radley are presented as innocent but misunderstood. They are like a mockingbird which only makes sweet music and harms nobody. Therefore, it would be a sin to harm them. In chapter 30, Scout comes to realize this connection when she points out to Atticus that dragging the reclusive Arthur into the public light would "be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird."

There are many more specific metaphors throughout this book, too. For example, in her narration, Scout uses metaphors to describe the summers of her childhood.

Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the tree-house; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape. (Ch. 4)

Of course, summer is not literally the things described here. Scout is using a metaphor to draw comparisons to the feelings she experiences in the summer to the season itself.

You can also find several metaphors used to describe various characters as they are introduced in chapter 1. For instance, Calpurnia is described with metaphor as being "all angles and bones." The old racist neighbor, Mrs. Dubose, "was plain hell." Boo, the enigmatic resident of the Radley home, seemed "a malevolent Phantom." These characters are not actually these things. Rather, the author uses the power of metaphors to describe them this way in order to show us the world of Maycomb and its residents through Scout's point of view, which is full of childlike wonder.

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One of the most famous metaphors in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is said by Atticus to Scout early in the novel. In Chapter 3, after Scout has had a very disappointing first day of school, Atticus uses a metaphor to teach Scout the principle he lives by of understanding, accepting, and respecting other people:

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-- ... --until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. (Ch. 3)

Scout takes this message very much to heart, and it comes up several other times in the book. By the final chapter of the novel, Scout has grown enough that she can reword the metaphor on her own:

One time [Atticus] said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. (Ch. 31)

Scout recalls Atticus's lesson in understanding and accepting others as she stands on the porch of Arthur Radley and sees the neighborhood through his eyes. As she does so, she thinks about how Arthur observed the activities of "his children" with feelings of generosity, care, and even concern.

Another important metaphor is spoken by Atticus to Jem and helps develop the theme concerning courage. Jem has just had his experience with Mrs. Dubose in which he learns to see her as not just a cantankerous, hateful old woman but as a truly great lady due to her bravery. Atticus had wanted Jem to spend time reading to Mrs. Dubose with the express purpose of teaching him the true meaning of courage. Atticus uses a metaphor to explain what he wants Jem to see courage as being:

I wanted you to see something about [Mrs. Dubose]--I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. (Ch. 11)

Atticus continues to explain that he wanted Jem to see courage as the ability to undertake a task one is unlikely to succeed in but following through with it regardless, simply because one knows it is the right thing to do, a message that is a central premise of the book.

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