Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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Who are the mockingbirds in the book To Kill A Mockingbird?

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First, it is important to define what a mockingbird is. Fortunately for us, the book does this for us. Here is a conversation that Atticus has with Jem and Scout has with Miss Maudie. 

To Kill A Mockingbird

Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but 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. 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.”

If we take this to be the meaning of a mockingbird, then the most obvious mockingbird is Tom Robinson. He only did good things, even for the Ewells. He was a kind and good man. Therefore, to harm him is to harm a mockingbird, which is a sin. 

The kids are also mockingbirds. Jem and Scout are innocent and kind. So, when Bob Ewell tried to kill them, he was committing a sin as well. 

At the end of the book, Boo Radley is also seen as a mockingbird. He is an innocent man and so to harm him or fail to protect him is to fail to protect a mockingbird. It is amazing that Scout, as a child, saw this dynamic. She saw is better than Atticus! Here is how the book ends:

Atticus sat looking at the floor for a long time. Finally he raised his head. “Scout,” he said, “Mr. Ewell fell on his knife. Can you possibly understand?"

Atticus looked like he needed cheering up. I ran to him and hugged him and kissed him with all my might. “Yes sir, I understand,” I reassured him. “Mr. Tate was right."

Atticus disengaged himself and looked at me. “What do you mean?” “Well, it’d be sort of like shootin‘ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”

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Who in the novel are mockingbirds, and why?

In the novel, Atticus tells Jem not to use his air rifle to kill mockingbirds because they make music and are not destructive or harmful in any way. Thus the mockingbird is established as a creature of innocence and one that enriches the world because of its basic nature and the fact of its existance. This is an important motif in the novel that culminates when Scout draws a parallel between Boo Radley and the mockingbirds that Atticus had told Jem to respect.

Boo Radley, Tom Robinson, and the children themselves are all mockingbirds. They are all innocent of wrongdoing, and all of them are basically gentle and loving souls. They are not agents of destruction in...

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the novel. Boo saves the children's lives, Tom tried to help Mayella Ewell out of compassion for her, and the children reject cruelty when they encounter it. Boo and the children do not die in the novel, but Tom is killed by some guards in prison where he has been confined for a crime he did not commit.

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Who in the novel are mockingbirds, and why?

Atticus explains that a mockingbird shouldn't be shot due to the fact that they don't harm anyone else; in fact, all the do is make beautiful music for others to enjoy.

Tom Robinson is an example of a mockingbird, as he has done nothing wrong; in fact, he helped Mayella, and they are "shooting" him by taking him to trial.

Boo Radley is a mockingbird at the end of the novel. Heck Tate doesn't want to prosecute him for what he did to Bob Ewell and, as Scout observes, it would be like shooting a mockingbird--Boo only tried to do good, and taking him to trial would be punishing him.

Jem and Scout can be seen as mockingbirds as well, in two ways. They are innocent children and the town is "shooting" them by making them scapegoats for Atticus' choice. Also, Bob turns them into mockingbird by trying to kill them for doing nothing at all--just for being related to Atticus.

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Who are the "mockingbirds" in To Kill a Mockingbird?

If you're looking for quotes about the "mockingbirds" of To Kill a Mockingbird, visit the quotes about the mistreatment or virtue of Boo Radley, Tom Robinson, Dill, or any other innocent character who has unjustly suffered because of the evils of the world.

For example, Boo Radley is an honest soul who has become a recluse because of the mistreatment he has suffered in life. Tom Robinson is much the same because of the color of his skin. While Tom is physically handicapped, Boo is socially handicapped. Dill is only a child who has already suffered the consequences of not knowing his biological father, and becoming a bit of a lost child as a result.

In short, a mockingbird is any character that has unfairly suffered. A mockingbird is a harmless and fragile animal. To kill it is heinous, but the world does just that to human beings of the same nature.

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