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

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The fire symbolizes the closeness and courage of the community.

The fire is one of the most memorable early events in the novel.  It serves a couple of important purposes.  First, it gives us a glimpse of the town in the face of a crisis it can directly confront.  It is easy to vilify the townspeople due to their treatment of the Robinson trial.  The fire demonstrates their protection of one another and courage in the face of physical danger.

Second, it shows us how close-knit a community it really is.  Everyone in the town shows up, and they risk bodily harm to rescue Miss Maudie’s furniture and belongings.  They struggle together to get the fire truck there when it won’t start. Even Miss Maudie is brave, as her house burns down.  Boo Radley demonstrates courage when he comes out of the house and puts the blanket on Scout’s shoulders.

Everyone in Maycomb is there to support Miss Maudie, but also to view the spectable.  Everyone knows what is happening to everyone else.


bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Maudie's house fire also serves as a symbolic means of cleansing the neighborhood of both real and metaphoric obstacles. The fire destroys the house which Maudie claims to detest: It allows her to build a new and smaller one which will allow more room outside for her precious flowers. It blackens her plants outside, as well as melting the Morphodite Snowman's white outer coating: In doing so, it reveals that there is really little difference between white and black (a symbolic reference to the racism found in Maycomb). The fire also serves to clear the air once and for all about the good intentions of Boo Radley: While Scout stands outside in the cold, Boo stealthily places a blanket upon her shoulders. When Atticus explains how it got there, the children recognize that Boo is their silent and still invisible friend.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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