To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

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What Does The Mad Dog Symbolize In To Kill A Mockingbird

What does Tim, the mad dog, symbolize in Chapter 10 of "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

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smkteach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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starTop subject is Literature

The dog itself symbolizes racism.  Atticus's willingness to shoot the dog, parallels his willingness to take on Tom Robinson's case.  The dog is described as  being just as dangerous dead as alive.  So, too, is the racism in the town.  While Atticus may attack that racism in court, no matter what the outcome of the trial, the racism is still rampant, still dangerous whether dead (an acquittal) or alive (a conviction).

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ladyvols1 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Harper Lee was an excellent storyteller.  She not only had a gift for characterisation, but she also was good at setting the tone in a story and creating suspense.  She inserted several Gothic elements in the story like the snow which was unusual for that part of the country, and Tim Johnson the mad dog.  This was part of the theme of good vs evil.  Jem and Scout were often embarrassed because Aticus was so much older than many of the other dads, especially Jem.  The insertion of the mad dog who Aticus says, "is just as dangerous dead as alive," was a brilliant way to show good, brave (Aticus) overcome evil (the dog).  The secondary affect was that and Scout see their father in a new light and amazed to find out that his father was one of the "best shots" in the county.

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saintkiss | Student


  • what the trial will be like, dangerous and predictable. Just as the tension and suspense is suddenly brought in by an unexpected occurrence of a mad dog in February.
  • tension that will follow soon after as Atticus has to do everything regarding Tom Robinson's case meticulously, and do a “one-shot” attempt, if not something horrible will happen, just likeTom got shot and wasn’t given a second attempt at the appeal.
  • Atticus was "a little to the right", inaccuracy also foreshadows how Tom’s case would be extremely difficult yet the outcome is always the same, the black would never win the white.
ogirl96 | Student

The mad dog in To Kill a Mockingbird is racism and can be proved because as the dog roams the townspeople run indoors and lock up their houses as they would if a black man was walking and they would want to avoid him.

anna101 | Student

I think that the dog symbolizes Atticus's bravery