Why is it a sin to kill Tom Robinson?

It is a sin to kill Tom Robinson because he is innocent, like a mockingbird. According to Miss Maudie, mockingbirds do no harm and only provide music for people to enjoy. Similarly, Tom Robinson has done no wrong to Mayella—on the contrary, he has helped and pitied her.

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It is a sin to kill Tom Robinson for the same reason that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. After the children receive air-rifles, Atticus tells Jem that while, ideally, he'd prefer they only shoot tin cans, he knows that Jem will want to practice shooting at living,...

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It is a sin to kill Tom Robinson for the same reason that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. After the children receive air-rifles, Atticus tells Jem that while, ideally, he'd prefer they only shoot tin cans, he knows that Jem will want to practice shooting at living, moving things. Atticus recommends shooting at bluejays, but warns Jem that it's a sin to shoot a mockingbird:

Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

Scout has never heard this saying before, and she is surprised to hear her father say that anything is a sin, so she asks Miss Maudie about it later. In response, Miss Maudie lists all of the irritating things that other birds do and explains that mockingbirds don’t do any of those things; they only sing. Thus, according to Miss Maudie, it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because mockingbirds don't cause harm—they only bring joy with their melodious songs.

Essentially, both Atticus and Miss Maudie are saying that it's wrong to harm something that doesn’t harm anyone else; innocent creatures, like the mockingbird, must be protected. This idea directly connects to Tom Robinson and his trial. Tom has been accused of rape by Mayella Ewell, a crime that carries the death penalty. It is clear from Atticus's defense that Tom did not (and, in fact, could not have) committed the crime. Despite all the evidence pointing toward Tom's innocence, however, he is ultimately convicted by the jury due to the color of his skin.

Like a mockingbird, Tom Robinson has done nothing to harm to anyone—in fact, he has actively performed good deeds, having helped Mayella and shown compassion toward her in the past. It's a sin to kill Tom Robinson because doing do would be harming an innocent who has done no wrong.

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