What is the symbolism of a mockingbird and finch?

Expert Answers
mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both are songbirds who belong to other songbird families.  Both make beautiful music and do no harm to other birds or farmers' crops.  These are symbolic of the Finch family, Dolphus, Tom, and Boo.  (See below)

They are contrasted by the bluejays, who are considered pests.  They do not make music; instead, they harm farmers' crops.  They travel alone.  This is symbolic of Bob Ewell in the novel.

From my New Oxford American Dictionary:

A finch is "a seed-eating songbird that typically has a stout bill and colorful plumage."  The true finches belong to the family Fringillidae (the finch family), which includes chaffinches, canaries, linnets, crossbills, etc. Many other finches belong to the bunting, waxbill, or sparrow families.

A mockingbird is "a long-tailed thrushlike songbird with grayish plumage, found mainly in tropical America and noted for its mimicry of the calls and songs of other birds."  The mockingbird family also includes the catbirds, thrashers, and tremblers.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To add to the reply above, I think it is important to note that Harper Lee's mother's maiden name was Finch. Lee used all of her mother's name in her book. To me, this shows that her mother was very important to her. Yet the character Scout our narrator lost her mother at a young age.

With the finch being an innocent songbird, I often wonder if whatever struggles her own real mother had in life she tried to symbolize in her book by allowing her mother to die young. I think she certainly created her own family (Jem, Scout and Atticus) to be an innocent crew. They are disconnected as characters from the racial tension that occurs throughout the book and are named Finches.

rileyboadway | Student

Scout, Jem and Atticus are all part of the Finch family. A finch is also a type of bird which is symbolic to their family. A finch is a small bird that is very vulnerable to predators such as cats and larger birds (whateats). The finch family is actually very vulnerable too. Maycomb is a very racist town to black people. When Atticus tries to defend Tom Robinson; a black, the people are very mean to the Finch’s. When the Finch’s have their Christmas with the wrest of their family, Scout’s cousin, Francis calls Atticus a “nigger-lover” repeatedly (83-84). He means this as an insult because he is racist to black people. The family is also vulnerable to murderers. In chapter 28, Bob Ewell attempts to kill Jem and Scout because Atticus was defending against him. In chapter 15, a mob attempts to kill Atticus the night before the trial. The finch and the Finch family are both vulnerable to hatred.

The finch symbol relates to the theme of diversity in the book. The finch bird is a species that has many sub-species which are very different from the other. The species is very diverse in the sense that one sub-species could be very unlike another, yet they all come from the same family; finch. This symbol represents the diversity of the people of Maycomb. “There's four kinds of folks in the world. There's the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there's the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes” says Jem (). The people are very different in the way they live. There are people like the Finch’s, who have a nice home and food to eat. There are people who live in dumps, like the Ewells, who have to hunt for food or find it in dumps. There are also the black people, who live separate from the white and go to different churches. They live scared because of the racism from the white. The Finch’s are especially different because they are not racist like most of the town. The people in Maycomb are very diverse and so the finch bird species, which is why it relates to this theme.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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