What could be another title for To Kill a Mockingbird, and why?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A theme-based alternate title for the book To Kill a Mockingbird might be Other People’s Skin.

An alternative title for the book could be plot-based.  For instance, the book could be called Maycomb, because it takes place in Maycomb.  It could also be called The Trial of Tom Robinson, because the book is mostly about the trial.

The problem with these titles is that they focus only on one aspect of the book, and do not capture major themes.  The first is too vague, and the second is too specific.

Let us explore where the book gets its title and how.  The title of the book To Kill a Mockingbird is based on one of the book’s major themes and an important quotation from Atticus. 

Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird. (ch 10)

This quote is important because it highlights a significant theme: innocents should be protected, not targeted.  The book’s mockingbirds are Boo Radley and Tom Robinson, and these are victims of prejudice and racism.  Scout realizes this at the end of the book when Boo Radley protects Scout and Jem from Bob Ewell.  They do not want to bring to light Boo’s actions, to protect him from being in the public eye.

"Well, it'd be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?" (ch 30)

By returning us to this quote at the end of the book, Lee demonstrates that Scout has grown and matured.  She has learned empathy, and can look at things from other people’s point of view.

If we are replacing this title, we need to replace it with one at least as good.  So a meaningful title should also focus on a major theme.  Although this is an important theme from the book, there are others.  One of the themes is that growing up involves appreciation of others.  There is another important quote.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-"

"Sir?"

"-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." (ch 3)

If Lee had instead named the book Other People’s Skin, it would capture the theme of looking at things from others’ point of view, and also the concept of racism.  The title can be interpreted two ways.  This title would be a good re-titling because it captures a theme, is based on a quote from the book, and has a double meaning that captures the concept of racism.  The original title does all of these things, so this new one would be an example of a good title.

As you can see, coming up with an excellent title is no easy task.  You first need to decide if you want your title to be theme-based, plot-based, or whether it will be based on a character, place, or quotation.

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