Why is the symbol of the mockingbird important to the novel?

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deenadmh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 10, Scout and Jem are excited to use their new air- rifles, and are upset that Atticus won't teach them to shoot. Atticus tells Jem, "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." Atticus goes on to explain that people should never kill mockingbirds, because a mockingbard causes no harm, but only sings with its lovely and harmless voice. This is a metaphor for all of the innocent characters throughout the novel who are victimized without legitimate reason. Scout and Jem find themselves the subject of violence, simply because they are the children of a lawyer who is defending a black man. Tom Robinson is clearly innocent of Mayella Ewell's accusations, but is found guilty because of his race. Boo Radley is also the victim of his father's abuse, although we do not know the extent of the abuse. The children also prey on Boo, making him the target of their games, jokes, and horror stories. They have had no direct interaction with Boo that would suggest he is evil, but because of the obscurity of his situation, he becomes a victim of the society's rumors.  Because of all this, the idea of an innocent person becoming a victim, and people going after a harmless being, is a heavy theme within Harper Lee's novel.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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