What literary devices are found in Chapter 21 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 21, as Scout is wearily waiting for the verdict of the Tom Robinson trial, she describes "an impression that was creeping into me," which is a form of personification. This type of literary device makes something not human, like an impression, into something that has human aspects. Scout then thinks:

"The feeling grew until the atmosphere in the courtroom was exactly the same as a cold February morning, when the mockingbirds were still, and the carpenters had stopped hammering on Miss Maudie’s new house, and every wood door in the neighborhood was shut as tight as the doors of the Radley Place."

Technically a simile, because the comparison uses the word "as" ("the same as a cold February morning"), this long description is also a kind of extended metaphor. Scout compares the way she feels about the courtroom to the way she feels on a winter morning when there is no noise and every door is closed. The courtroom is in a state of cold deadness until the jury returns.

When the jury returns, Scout experiences what happens as if it were a dream. She says, "I saw the jury return, moving like underwater swimmers," which is an example of a simile. She says of Atticus: "It was like watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a rifle to his shoulder and pull the trigger, but watching all the time knowing that the gun was empty." This simile expresses the idea that Atticus has tried to win over the jury but has failed to do so. His sense of futility is similar to what he would experience if he found his gun unloaded. This is perhaps the most powerful use of a literary device in the entire chapter, as it captures Atticus's sense of defeat. 

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several examples of foreshadowing found in Chapter 21 of To Kill a Mockingbird. One comes when Reverend Sykes remarks to Scout that

"I ain't ever seen any jury decide in favor of a colored man over a white man..."

Reverend Sykes will soon be proven correct. Another occurs when Scout watches the jury walk in. She notes that no jury ever looks a convicted man in the eyes,

... and when this jury came in, not one of them looked at Tom Robinson.

A personification occurs when

  • "the old courthouse clock suffered its preliminary strain..."

Similes include

  • "the courtroom was exactly the same as a cold February morning..."
  • "it (the courtroom scene) was like watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a rifle to his shoulder and pull the trigger..."
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To Kill a Mockingbird

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