Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee
Start Free Trial

What are three symbols of Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and why are they symbolic?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Air rifle: Scout and Jem receive air rifles as Christmas presents from their Uncle Jack. In one of the most significant scenes in the novel, Atticus tells his children that it is considered a sin to kill a mockingbird. Atticus's lesson can be metaphorically applied to emphasize the importance of protecting innocent beings. Scout's air rifle can symbolize her aggressive personality, as she has a short temper and gets into several fights throughout the novel. Atticus's lesson addresses his daughter's hostile nature by emphasizing the importance of tolerance and self-restraint.

Ham Costume: Scout's cumbersome ham costume symbolizes her naive perspective on life as well as her childhood innocence. Similarly to how Scout's naive outlook prevents her from noticing the harmful prejudice throughout her community, the ham costume restricts her vision and makes it difficult for her to navigate in the dark. The ham costume also prevents Bob Ewell's knife from striking her, which is similar to how Scout's naïveté protects her from understanding the dark reality of her hometown.

Overalls: Scout continually wears overalls during the novel, despite her aunt's disapproval. The overalls symbolize Scout's tomboy nature. She is a rather aggressive child, who prefers playing outside with Jem and Dill instead of entertaining herself with miniature ovens and dolls. 

Tom Swift Novel: Scout mentions that Dill lent her his book and worries that it will be lost during Maudie's house fire. The Tom Swift novel symbolizes both Scout's affinity for reading and her close friendship with Dill Harris.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

OVERALLS.  Scout's ever-present symbol of her tomboyish ways, her overalls (or coveralls) are her favorite item of clothing. Atticus rarely if ever complains about them, however, so Scout continues to wear them as a way of fighting back against others' attempts to make a lady out of her. Scout wins a small victory at the end of the story when

... in her distraction, Aunty brought me my overalls. "Put these on, darling," she said, handing me the garments she most despised.  (Chapter 28)

FISTS.  Scout's flying fists serve to show her pugilistic skills, her hot temper, and her reluctance to settle down into young ladyhood. She promises Atticus that she will stop using them, since he knows that her anger will be tested when the trial of Tom Robinson begins. She slips up a few times, using them to "split my knuckle to the bone" on Cousin Francis's teeth, and in occasional sibling combat with Jem.

THE PORCH SWING.  Scout does some her best thinking on the front porch swing. She joins her father there every night where they read together, and she curls up with him there when she has questions that need answering. On hot summer evenings, she joins Miss Maudie on her own porch, where they "sit silently... watching the sky go from yellow to pink..." Her fantasies about Boo focus on the Radley porch, where she "imagined how... he'd just be sitting in the swing when I came along." When she finally does meet Boo, she takes him to sit on their front porch; since Atticus is already sitting in the swing, she leads him to a rocking chair, where she happily sits next to her new hero.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team