How does Atticus symbolize a mockingbird in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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The title, To Kill A Mockingbird, comes from these famous lines from the novel:

“Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,”...

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The title, To Kill A Mockingbird, comes from these famous lines from the novel:

“Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.
“Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy...but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

In this quote, Atticus tells Scout and Jem that "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird," because mockingbirds are innocent, kind creatures that do nothing except try to make the world a better place with their music.

Atticus is much the same. Throughout the novel, Atticus Finch ("finch" also being a kind of bird) is portrayed as an honest, driven, and just man. He works tirelessly to do what's right and to teach his children to do the same. Even though he knows Tom Robinson will almost certainly be convicted, Atticus chooses to risk his reputation and his own personal safety to defend the man he knows to be innocent.

In response to his advocacy, Atticus is threatened by both a lynch mob and Bob Ewell, and his children are even attacked. If Atticus is a mockingbird, then these threats are analogous to "killing" a mockingbird. Although Atticus is a truly good man working only to better his community, the hatred and racism common in his time threaten him nonetheless.

Through the symbol of the mockingbird, Lee depicts the hatred and racism common in the 1930s Deep South as an ultimate sin and betrayal of both humanity and God.

Other characters, like Tom Robinson, Scout, Boo Radley, and even Mayella Ewell can also easily be compared to the mockingbird. Tom is an innocent man who does nothing but attempt to help a neighbor, yet he is literally killed. Scout is an innocent child who is harmed both emotionally and physically by the hatred and racism rampant in her town. Boo Radley actually only helps people throughout the novel (culminating in saving the children's lives), yet he is ridiculed and shunned by a town fed by gossip. Mayella is a young, clearly abused woman, who has been forced into an awful situation by her abusive father. These are also incredibly compelling comparisons beyond Atticus!

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The mockingbird can symbolize Atticus because Atticus never intends to harm anyone.

Like the mockingbird he describes in Chapter 10 as merely "singing his heart out" all day, Atticus does his best to avoid antagonism and he nurtures his children with gentle persuasions rather than harsh punishments.

When a disgruntled Scout returns from her first day of school, Atticus listens as she describes her perceived antagonist, Miss Caroline, who has said that Atticus has "taught [her] all wrong," so they cannot read any more. Instead of growing angry at the insult, Atticus stands and quietly walks to the wisteria vine at the end of the porch; he then tells Scout that sometimes people need to "climb into the skin" of another person "and walk around in it" so that they can really know and understand that person (Ch. 3). He explains to Scout what they can do in order to continue their nightly practice of reading the newspaper without causing Miss Caroline to feel consternation in thinking that he is "teaching" his daughter.

Further, Atticus does not want harm done to Boo Radley, so he forbids the children to bother him by slipping him a letter, or performing other acts of intrusion. Atticus tells the children,

What Mr. Radley did was his own business. If he wanted to come out, he would. If he wanted to stay inside his own house, he had the right to stay inside free from the attentions of inquisitive children.... (Ch. 5)

He is always polite to Mrs. Dubose despite the vituperative things she says about Atticus. Later, when Jem tears the blooms off the camellias, Atticus has Jem read to her in order to bring her some pleasure before she dies.

Further, Atticus is reluctant to shoot the rabid dog, and he takes the Tom Robinson case because he believes in everyone's right to justice. When the mob comes to take Tom and lynch him, Atticus is not cruel in his speech or demeanor as he talks to Mr. Cunningham at the jailhouse. During the trial of Tom Robinson, at which Atticus does his best for the innocent man, he is polite and professional in his questioning of Bob Ewell and Mayella Ewell. Even after the trial, when Ewell spits in his face, Atticus does not strike the man or call him names.

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In the book "To Kill A Mockingbird,", Atticus Finch is portrayed and described as an honest innocent man.  He is a lawyer by trade and has represented Maycomb county in the state legislature.  Atticus is considered by most in the town to be an honest and virtuous man.  The book reaches an important zenith in this character portrayal when Atticus is assigned to defend Tom Robinson, a black man, accused of raping a white woman.  One of the important quotes in the book has to do with Jem and Scout receiving air rifles for Christmas.  Atticus tells them "Shoot all the blue jays you can; but don't kill a mockingbird, it would be a sin."  Mockingbirds are considered innocent, making a living by imitating all the other birds in their general locale.  The entire book is a work portraying innocence:  innocence as a virtue, as a characteristic of age, and the loss thereof by growing up and seeing the contrasting values of other people within our society.  Thus, it is fitting to symbolize Atticus with the imagery of the mockingbird itself.

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