What is the significance of the metaphor of the mockingbird in To Kill A Mockingbird?

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As the title of the novel implies, the mockingbird serves as an important symbol throughout the narrative.

In the novel, a number of episodes feature harmless and innocent people being attacked. Mockingbirds are identified by both Atticus Finch and Miss Maudie as examples of creatures that do no harm and...

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As the title of the novel implies, the mockingbird serves as an important symbol throughout the narrative.

In the novel, a number of episodes feature harmless and innocent people being attacked. Mockingbirds are identified by both Atticus Finch and Miss Maudie as examples of creatures that do no harm and are deserving of protection. 

As Miss Maudie Atkinson explains, it would be thoughtlessly cruel to kill innocent creatures that "don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy."

Part of the moral of the novel concerns the notion that the innocent should be protected by those who have the privilege, the power, or the will to protect them. We see this in Jem's protection of Scout, in Atticus defense of Tom Robinson, and in Miss Maudie's defense of Atticus. Scout also comes to the defense of the defenseless, especially at the novel's end as she walks Boo Radley home in the dark. 

Regarding mockingbirds specifically, Jem and Scout are told never to shoot a mockingbird with their air rifles. More metaphorically, they are instructed about the moral imperative to never take advantage of people who are powerless and to refrain from abusing the rights of others. 

Through these episodes, the mockingbird becomes a symbol for harmlessness and for justice. 

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