Why is it a sin to kill a mockingbird in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is a sin to kill a mockingbird because they do not do anything to hurt anyone, they just sing.

When Atticus tells them that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, Scout is surprised.

That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. (ch 10)

Atticus does not use the word “sin” lightly, clearly.  He does not have a problem with the children killing blue jays.  Clearly blue jays are less than mockingbirds in his esteem.  Scout wants to know why.

"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." (ch 10)

Mockingbirds are innocent creatures who do not hurt anyone.  As opposed to blue jays, who bully other birds, mockingbirds just copy other birds and sing.  They entertain the people, so the people should not hurt them.  Atticus makes a point to mention mockingbirds because they are different. 

The mockingbirds are symbolic.  They are targeted because they are different.  The difference does not have to be a bad thing.  In this case, it is actually a good thing.  Characters like Boo Radley and Tom Robinson are mockingbirds because they are innocents who are targeted because of their differences.  Just as it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, targeting them because they are different is wrong.

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logophile's profile pic

logophile | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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It is a sin to kill a mockingbird because a mockingbird is innocent. The mockingbird is a symbol for Tom Robinson, the innocent man condemned to die by a racist town in the book.

eamoore1's profile pic

eamoore1 | eNotes Newbie

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"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." (ch 10)

Mockingbirds do not harm, they bring joy through their song. It would be like killing an innocent being. While this is relevant for this moment with Scout and her gun, it also relates to the innocent people who have the potential to be harmed in the Maycomb, Alabama community. 

jess1999's profile pic

jess1999 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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According to Atticus and Miss Maudie, killing a mockingbird would be a sin because they don't bring harm upon the human populations, instead they sing for us. This symbolic reference would also become very important later on in the book. The idea of killing innocent people or even judging people you don't know that well is major theme throughout the novel.

QUOTE:

"Mockingbirds don't eat up people's garden, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts our for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" (Ch 10)

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