What do the birds in To Kill a Mockingbird symbolize when Lee writes...?"Just as the birds know where to go when it rains, I knew when there was trouble in our street." What do the birds symbolize?...

What do the birds in To Kill a Mockingbird symbolize when Lee writes...?

"Just as the birds know where to go when it rains, I knew when there was trouble in our street." What do the birds symbolize? Thank you!

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bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The birds in the story symbolize innocence and peace. When the mockingbirds become silent in the "deserted, waiting street," they recognize that death is imminent for the mad dog, Tim Johnson--another innocent creature who has become diseased and must be destroyed. When the "mockingbirds were still" as the jury enters the courtroom at the end of the Tom Robinson trial, it foreshadows the unjust decision that is forthcoming. In Chapter 28, as the children make their way in the evening darkness toward the school for the Halloween pageant, the birds are not silent: 

... a solitary mocker poured out his repertoire...,

this time as a warning to Jem and Scout that evil lurks nearby. 

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jameadows's profile pic

jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

Scout says this in Chapter 8 when Atticus wakes her up late at night because Miss Maudie's house is on fire. The birds symbolize creatures who have an innate sense of nature and the way things work in their world. The birds know it's going to rain before the rain starts, and they are instinctively able to find a dry place while it's raining. In a similar way, Scout has an instinctual sense about how her neighborhood works and when something is amiss because she is intelligent and observant. Therefore, when Atticus wakes her up, she immediately knows that there is trouble. She says, "Soft taffeta-like sounds and muffled scurrying sounds filled me with helpless dread." Just hearing these muffled sounds from the street makes her aware that there is trouble. Later, Scout will use this keen sense of observation to understand what is going on during Tom Robinson's trial, even though the situation is very complex for a child to understand.

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