What is a quote that deals with good vs. evil in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 10, Atticus gives his children their air rifles and says,

"I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird" (Lee 57).

Atticus' directive to shoot all the bluejays they want as long as they do not kill any mockingbirds is a metaphor regarding "good vs. evil." Bluejays symbolically represent "evil." Bluejays are territorial birds which are considered a nuisance and are known to attack songbirds. The notorious Bob Ewell is symbolically represented as a bluejay throughout the novel. In contrast, mockingbirds are innocent beings who spread joy through their beautiful music. They symbolically represent "good" in Atticus' metaphor. Atticus encourages his children to respect innocent individuals and protect them from harm. The characters of Tom Robinson and Boo Radley symbolically represent mockingbirds. Atticus courageously defends Tom Robinson in front of a prejudiced jury, and Sheriff Tate refuses to force Boo Radley into the limelight following Boo's heroic actions. Jem and Scout learn the importance of distinguishing between good and evil, and how to respond to each by following Atticus' directive to shoot the bluejays, but not the mockingbirds.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After the verdict is read for Tom Robinson and the court is adjourned, Jem decries this ruling of the court by saying: "It ain't right, Atticus." Atticus replied, "No son, it's not right." (Ch.22)

The trial of Tom Robinson is based on real trials and incidents that occurred in the South when the Jim Crow Laws were yet in effect. One of these infamous trials was the trial of the Scottsboro Boys, when two black men were convicted of raping two white women without actual evidence of this crime. Affecting the decisions of black men accused of assault upon white women was the emotional factor and the law against miscegenation. Often just the claim by a white woman was enough to convict a black man. Such is the case with the kind-hearted Tom Robinson. For there is no evidence of the crime of rape; the only thing on which the charge is based is the accusations made by the Ewells. In addition, Tom's remark that he "felt right sorry" for Mayella is probably disturbing to the white men of the jury, which is why Mr. Gilmer "seemed ready to rise to the ceiling" when he repeated Tom's words. Mr. Gilmer even "paused a long time to let it (Tom's statement) sink in." (Ch.19) Thus, at the end of the trial, it is the evil of bigotry in the hearts of the men on the jury that convicts the innocent Tom Robinson.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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