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The book's title is from a line spoken by Miss Maudie, who reaffirms to Scout and Jem what Atticus had already told them, that killing a mockingbird is a sin. "They don't do one thing," she says, "but sing their hearts out for us." The mockingbird is held up as a symbol of innocence, which in many of the characters is destroyed throughout the course of the novel. The episode with Miss Maudie suggests that maintaining a certain innocence even under dire circumstances is a worthwhile goal, as is an appreciation of the beauty that exists in an otherwise ugly world.
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