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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What does the clocktower in To Kill a Mockingbird symbolize?  Does this tie into any other symbol in the book?

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The clock tower symbolizes time and progress in Maycomb—especially how slow it is (though certain details do suggest that progress is not static or impossible to attain).

Firstly, we are told that the clock tower is unreliable in telling the time. It moves slowly, much like the attitudes of the people of Maycomb remain much the same as they were during the days of the Old South, when slavery was still legal. These antiquated attitudes include the idea that Black Americans are intellectually and morally inferior to whites and, to a lesser extent, the expectation that girls and women be ladylike.

However, the clock tower was built right before or around the time of the Civil War, and its architecture clashes with the Old Southern style buildings in the area. This suggests there is some progress going on in town; it is mainly engendered in the young, like Scout and Jem, or in older, principled people like Atticus.

So, while progress is slow in coming, there is some hope for the future of Maycomb; though, unfortunately, it is much too late to be of any help to Tom Robinson.

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The clock tower of the Maycomb County courthouse symbolizes the slow change which takes place in the town. The clock tower sits on the south side of the courthouse, and author Harper Lee certainly did not choose to place it there randomly. The clock tower "clashed" with the Greek Revival columns also found on the south side--a style reminiscent of the great Southern mansions which once graced the area before the Civil War, and one that still represents the memories of the Old South and which still dominates many of the citizens' way of thinking. On the north side, the courthouse "was early Victorian," built after the original courthouse had burned in 1856. The clock tower was also probably added after the destruction of the original courthouse, and it is a more modern representation and symbol of the newer Maycomb. The clock, however, like the people of Maycomb, was "unreliable," showing that though times change, attitudes sometimes stand still.

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