What is the symbolism of the dog in To Kill a Mockingbird?

The rabid dog in To Kill a Mockingbird symbolizes the madness that threatens Atticus and the Finch family. This larger madness is the prejudice and racism infecting the town, which Atticus refers to as Maycomb's "usual disease." The symbolism of the dog is extended further when Atticus is forced to shoot the dog to protect his loved ones, even though he is reluctant to do so. This reflects the idea in the novel that some actions that may be difficult are also moral imperatives, such as Atticus's decision to defend Tom Robinson.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Atticus has to be persuaded to meet the dog.  He sees that the dog is clearly a danger to his family and the public, and further appears to be in great misery.  The important point is that Atticus is reluctant (a) to hurt the dog; (b) to demonstrate his marksmanship; and, I suspect, (c) to appear as a public hero.  Before shooting the dog he takes off his glasses; afterward, he grinds them underfoot.  I see two messages here: first, Atticus is ashamed to hide behind his glasses; second, he is distressed about having to fire a weapon close to home and having to appear as a hero.  Atticus is aware that he really is a warrior hero and is conflicted in that he is ashamed of his heroism.  His confidence and his willingness to go into danger are part of his motivation for defending Tom Robinson against a public opinion that is repugnant to him.

I agree with the others.  I put Ol' Tim Johnson in the category of a foreshadowing , as well.  Here he is, just livin' his happy dog life when...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 551 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team