Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Does Harper Lee use any literary devices in chapters 25–31 of To Kill a Mockingbird?

There are many literary devices woven in chapter 25-31 of To Kill a Mockingbird. Some include extended metaphor, allusion, colloquial dialect, and anaphora.

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In chapter 25, an extended metaphor is employed by Mr. B. B. Underwood to explain the injustice of Tom's death:

He likened Tom’s death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children.

This is a metaphor which is central to themes of the book and which is pieced together in various places. Atticus tells his children that it's a sin to kill a mockingbird, and Miss Maudie reiterates this sentiment. Songbirds only try to bring beauty to their worlds, and Tom was trying to alleviate Mayella's burdens by helping her. Neither songbirds nor Tom deserved death.

In chapter 26, an allusion to Hitler's reign of terror is used to draw a parallels to the injustices in America. Young Scout can't quite put her confusion into words but finally asks Jem,

She was talking with Miss Stephanie Crawford. I heard her say it’s time somebody taught ’em a lesson, they were gettin‘ way above themselves, an’ the next thing they think they can do is marry us. Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an‘ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home—

The allusion to Hitler elicits a strong emotional reaction in both Scout and the reader, and it is clear that Scout's community doesn't see the way their hatred affects the democracy Scout is learning about at school.

Lee constructs a colloquial dialect for her young Southern characters to support the realistic development of both character and setting. A great example is found in chapter 28:

“That yard’s a mighty long place for little girls to cross at night,” Jem teased. “Ain’t you scared of haints?”

We laughed. Haints, Hot Steams, incantations, secret signs, had vanished with our years as mist with sunrise. “What was that old thing,” Jem said, “Angel bright, life-indeath; get off the road, don’t suck my breath.”

This particular exchange shows both the unique language of these Maycomb children and the superstitious beliefs they once believed in.

Anaphora is when a writer uses the same phrase at the beginning of successive sentences or clauses. When Atticus cannot believe Bob Ewell tried to kill Scout and Jem, Heck Tate tells him in chapter 28,

He had guts enough to pester a poor colored woman, he had guts enough to pester Judge Taylor when he thought the house was empty. [Bold and italics added for emphasis.]

This structure is an effective reminder of Bob Ewell's prior cowardly behavior and reminds Atticus that his attempt to seek revenge by attacking children instead of Atticus is exactly in Bob Ewell's character.

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There are a number of literary devices in these chapters. Here are a few of them. First, we see an example of Aposiopesis. Aposiopesis may be seen as a type of ellipsis in that words are missing. The writer or speaker breaks off suddenly.

Here are the words of Bob Ewell towards Link Deas:

As Mr. Link came out of his store he saw Mr. Ewell leaning on the fence. Mr....

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Ewell said, “Don’t you look at me, Link Deas, like I was dirt. I ain’t jumped your—”

Here is an example of alliteration in the pageant that Mrs. Merriweather made for the school children.

Mrs. Grace Merriweather had composed an original pageant entitled Maycomb County: Ad Astra Per Aspera, and I was to be a ham.

Here is another example:

His trousers swished softly and steadily.

There is a metaphor when Heck Tate describes Bob Ewell as a drunk skunk.

“Don’t like to contradict you, Mr. Finch—wasn’t crazy, mean as hell. Low-down skunk with enough liquor in him to make him brave enough to kill children. He’d never have met you face to face."

Finally, there is an example of personification where the lights on the street take the human quality of winking. It is a nice and gentle touch.

Street lights winked down the street all the way to town.

If you read the chapters slowly, you will find many more. Here are a few things to look our for—similes, metaphors, and figurative language. Good luck.

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1. In chapter 26, Scout uses a simile to describe the way that Tom Robinson's verdict and tragic death has affected them by writing,

Perhaps Atticus was right, but the events of the summer hung over us like smoke in a closed room. (247)

2. At the end of chapter 27, Jem agrees to walk Scout to the Maycomb Halloween festival, and Harper Leeforeshadows Bob Ewell's vicious attack:

After that, it didn’t matter whether they went or not. Jem said he would take me. Thus began our longest journey together. (257)

The reader gets a sense that both Jem and Scout will encounter some difficult obstacle on their short journey to or from the Maycomb schoolhouse.

3. In chapter 28, Harper Lee utilizes symbolism as the children walk past the Radley home on their way to the school. Scout mentions,

High above us in the darkness a solitary mocker poured out his repertoire in blissful unawareness of whose tree he sat in, plunging from the shrill kee, kee of the sunflower bird to the irascible qua-ack of a bluejay, to the sad lament of Poor Will, Poor Will, Poor Will. (258)

Throughout the novel, mockingbirds symbolically represent innocent, defenseless individuals like Boo Radley, while blue jays symbolize malevolent, harmful people like Bob Ewell. The song of the mockingbird juxtaposed with the "irascible qu-uack" of the blue jay symbolically represents Boo Radley and Bob Ewell's presence later in the chapter.

4. In chapter 29, Atticus and Sheriff Tate discuss Bob Ewell's vicious attack, and Atticus uses an idiom by saying that Ewell "was out of his mind" (273).

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An implied metaphor is used in Chapter 25 when Scout reflects on Tom Robinson's death and the inevitable failure of Atticus' attempt to see Tom gain justice. After hearing about Tom's death and how his wife responded to hearing the news, Scout reports what other people think and say about the event in Maycomb, and it is clear that the prejudice against Tom because of the colour of his skin is what drives the negative comments in these reports. Scout reflects on the situation and concludes the following:

Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no escape.

Note the two metaphors that are used here. Firstly, Atticus used "tools," which refers to the various legal processes and rhetorical strategies that he used to try and encourage the jury to respond to Tom's case honestly and truthfully. Secondly, Scout says that "in the secret courts of men's hearts," likening the heart of man to a courtroom which is "secret" because so much that goes on in these secret courts are decided by prejudices and beliefs that we may have little awareness of.

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