What interesting objects, characters or names hint toward a larger meaning in the story? See also the questions below.
What is the significance of the name Boo or the nickname Scout? What about the idea of "Killing a mockingbird"? Of what could the mockingbird be a symbol? Explain.
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Harper Lee no doubt chose many of her To Kill a Mockingbird characters' names with a purpose in mind.
MOCKINGBIRD. As Atticus explains early in the story, "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." Mockingbirds only provide music, beauty and happiness to people and provide little or no threat to humans or other animals. Several characters are considered mockingbirds in the story because of their innocence and inner beauty, including Jem, Scout, Dill, Boo and Tom Robinson.
FINCH. Atticus' family is given a Mockingbirdesque name, signifying the entire family's goodness.
ATTICUS. Lee chose the unusual name also shared historically by the Roman philosopher Titus Pomponious Atticus, probably not by accident.
SCOUT. I don't believe it's ever specifically explained about her name, but it generally implies an inquisitive, exploring nature, which fits her well.
CALPURNIA. Calpurnia Pisonis was the name of the third and final wife of Julius Caesar. TKAM's Calpurnia served as a kind of second mother to Jem and Scout, so Lee's reference could have had some kind of parental intent.
BOO. Arthur Radley is given the ghostly nickname "Boo" because of his mysterious, scary reputation. Scout refers to his probable paleness or ghostly appearance.
ROBERT E. "BOB" LEE. Harper Lee deliberately gives the man with the worst reputation in Maycomb with the name of the South's greatest and most revered leader. General R. E. Lee was the commander of the Confederacy's greatest army, which won many victories over much larger Union armies before the numbers game finally caught up with him. It is an obvious irony that Ewell has such a fine name.
GRACE MERRIWEATHER. The "most devout lady in Maycomb," she is also a hypocritical bigot. It, like Ewell's name, is a deliberately ironic moniker.
BRAXTON BRAGG UNDERWOOD. The editor of the local newspaper is also named for a famed Confederate Civil War general. Unlike Lee, however, Bragg was known for his incompetence and unpopularity with his subordinate officers. The author gives the newspaperman the name deliberately to emphasize the controversy and dislike that goes along with being a journalist.
TOM ROBINSON. Tom is given a very common name, symbolizing that he is just that--a common man, his color being irrelevant.
MAYCOMB. What "may come" is not specific, but it may have been the inevitable change that many Southern towns tried their best to ignore.
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