Symbolism in the To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird is quite common. Some are subtle, others more obvious. The mockingbird is the most iconic symbol. It is a symbol for courage, innocence, and adulthood. These qualities are displayed in Atticus, Boo Radley, Tom Robinson.

Symbolism Defined

Symbolism is everywhere. It is used whenever something is supposed to represent another. Symbolism refers to a form of speech used by an author to convey a mood or emotion through a piece. It refers to the use in literature of an object, person or situation to represent another idea. The following are some common forms of symbolism:

  • Metaphor: A comparison between two like things without the use of ‘like’ and ‘as. A metaphor for comparing money and time is the phrase “Time is Money”. Money and time are different things. This is an example symbolism, as these words demonstrate the importance to use your time and money wisely.
  • Allegory: An extended metaphor. An allegory could be a whole story, poem, book or piece with symbolism that goes on throughout the literary piece. The Russian Revolution was represented in George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm. The farm’s animals are a symbol of how greed and disregard for others affect revolution.

Examples of symbolism in to kill a mockingbird

The symbols of Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird most are obvious. However, there are a few that are not. These symbols were created intentionally by Harper Lee. Is this what the editor suggested? Or does the author not see the importance of symbolism in the book? The book is a perfect example of how subtle motifs and ideas can be interconnected, regardless of whether they are conscious or subconscious. We can then explore the symbolism found in literature and elsewhere.

PowerPoint Teaching Symbols from To Kill a Mockingbird - I AM My Best

Let’s start by naming the mockingbird the clearest symbol. Mockingbirds can be described as songbirds Mimus multiglossus. They are found both in North America, and around the world. Their song mimicking ability and loud repetitions of the sounds of insects and amphibians is what makes them so well-known. We will be discussing a few ways you can interpret this. They are closely related to the finch as well, so it is no surprise that Finch is their chief family.

The most common offense of killing mockingbirds is the murder of an otherwise harmless, beautiful creature. The novel depicts Tom Robinson, a black man, as a’mockingbird.’ So too can Boo Radley the mysterious neighbour, who is like the bird a victim of children. Scout, Scout’s young heroine and narrator, who sings in a childlike manner. Boo and Tom are innocent victims, and are subject to irrational prejudice; each is ‘caged,’ one by the state, and the other by his families. Maybe Scout is also ‘caged” by her naivete.

The mockingbird may also be a symbol of innocence, which is ‘killed’ in different ways for Scout, Jem or Dill. It is important to remember that the mockingbird mimics the music of others and has no song. This can then be seen as a symbol for the whole of Maycomb where most people mimic each other’s prejudice. Scout is a perfect example of this. She mimics the behavior of others until she forms her own perspective at the end.

Chapter 10 introduces the mockingbird. Atticus tells the children to “shoot all the blue jays that you want… but remember, it’s an offense to kill a mockingbird.” Miss Maudie clearly explains that mockingbirds don’t cause harm and make music for people. Scout recognizes in Chapter 30 that Boo’s public exposure would be’sorta like shootin’ mockingbirds’. This connection is also made clear. Chapter 10 is about Tim Johnson’s killing. Chapter 21 is where they wait for their trial verdict. Chapter 25 is Underwood’s article. Chapter 21 is when the children are heading to the pageant.

“Mocking” is a common theme in the story. Boo Radley’s children make fun of Boo Radley’s stories (which, as we learn, he probably heard). Mayella accuses Atticus (which itself is a mockery) of mocking her at her trial. Atticus is passing ideas onto Scout by the image of the mockingbird. Imitating could lead to the vice of mockery and the inherited prejudices of racism or the nobler and more necessary virtue of the social inheritance of morals and principles from generation after generation.

Symbolism To Kill a Mockingbird. - ppt download

Flowers are also featured throughout the novel. Mrs Dubose may have used the camellias of Mrs Dubose to symbolize prejudices. Jem then rashly cut off their heads. This could be a sign that Jem is embracing a simplistic and youthful approach that doesn’t go to the root of racism or other attitudes in society. The snow-on the-mountain may represent Mrs Dubose’s status in the community. Jem is given one after her death, which could symbolise both her spirit’s liberation and reconciliation. Azaleas, a type Rhododendron, can grow in any kind of weather.

They are also famous for opening their flowers in one go, perhaps symbolizing openness and fearlessness. Geraniums can smell just like roses but are no substitute for roses. Mayella Ewell manages keep them alive in’six chipped enamel slop containers’, an American term that refers to a chamberpot. They are the symbol of Mayella Ewell’s tragic and desperate entrapment in a dark-hearted and deprived family.

Tim Johnson, the rabid canine is commonly thought to symbolize racism in the Southern community. It spreads like a contagion which encourages irrationality. Atticus shoots it to symbolically protest that racism. Any object, person, or thing, living or dead, can remind us about something else in the context of literature or in real life. The connection can be considered valid if the evidence is either textual or contextual. What is the difference between context and textual? We look inside a novel only, at its words, its characters, and themes. For the second, beyond the text, we examine the society and ideas that existed at the time the book was published, as well as any other current books.

Northrop Frye, a famous Canadian literary critic, says that the first is a centripetal movement looking inward. While the second is a centerifugal move, it is moving outward. We’ve seen the symbols centripetally. But we can see out to the time when the novel was being assembled for evidence of the civil rights movement that was not present at the time but was active during its creation.

Sometimes symbols can bridge both motions. Scout loses herself in a dream world as Judge Taylor delivers his verdict about Tom Robinson. Scout uses the dog to symbolize the racism in the novel. But Scout is referring to something else.

The book Stories Really Work reveals that Atticus goes beyond Scout’s dad. He is also the ‘old man’ with a stick, whose stick is the rifle, which is his symbol of power. Atticus’ “stick” fails to defeat society’s monsters as easily as his rifle shot Scout, shifting the entire story into a completely different genre.

Heck Tate’s criticism about Atticus shooting – “You were just a little to right” – is placed in this highly symbolic framework and is loaded with layers of meaning. “To the right,” in moral terms, or “to right”, in terms of political views. Or, perhaps, “just slightly off target,” as Atticus is in his address before the jury during the trial.

How do we determine the meaning? It is not possible to know the ‘correct’ meaning of the word. There are as many symbolic connections as viewpoints that can suggest or create them. They are persuasive if they have evidence supporting them. However, delusory in the degree to which contextual or textual evidence fades away.

One example is that the suggestion that Atticus might be the effect of illegal drug in the novel lacks any evidence. But the suggestion of something resonant in the action of stabbing can be supported by Boo Radley being locked up for an apparently random, unprompted stabbing his father’s leg using a pair of scissors. He is removed from society and is seen only briefly at the conclusion of the story. In that second appearance, he stabs once more, this time in an act de heroism to defend helpless children.

However, Maycomb’s sheriff knowingly gives him the slip and allows him to continue free. This is clear evidence in text that Lee intended the first stabbing as a prelude to the second. There is also symmetry between the actions. You can leave the interpretations of what this means about power over individuals, justice system, meaning of families, and heroism to other readers. But, all of them can be very valid if there is sufficient evidence.

Boo Radley

The novel’s progression reveals how the children’s attitudes towards Boo Radley change over time. This is a sign of their growth from innocence to a mature moral perspective. Boo Radley appears to be a source of childhood superstition in the beginning. As he leaves Jem, Scout gifts, and fixes Jem’s pants he becomes more and greater a human being to them.

Scout discovers that he is fully human at the end. It shows how Scout has grown into a compassionate and understanding person. Boo is an intelligent child who is lost to his father’s cruelty. He is also a symbol of the good in people. Boo is a pure-hearted person who has never let anyone down, regardless of the terrible things he’s been through. Boo has proven to be the ultimate symbol of goodness by saving Scout (Jem) and Bob Ewell (Scout).

Atticus Finch displays courage in his decision to defend Tom Robinson during a legal case that almost no one else would take, which was a seemingly impossible fight. It was not cowardice and fear of losing the case that were the opposite of courage. But conformity – to follow the racist agenda of the day – was the true opposite of courage. Atticus defends an innocent man of color and stands alone against Maycomb County’s prejudice.

His neighbours question Atticus’ resolve and ask rhetorically if he is really a nigger lover. As Atticus defends Tom, mockingbirds can attack animals larger than them to defend their nest. Tom was presumed guilty because of his black seeing “what the look for”. Atticus was there to give Tom the benefit and represent him when others thought he was going to lose. It becomes clearer that Tom was not considered innocent until proven guilty. His sentence was determined at birth by the color of his skin and was ultimately “left for dead”. Atticus knew what Tom’s story would be from the beginning, but the Mockingbird prevailed.

To Kill a Mockingbird - Broome County Arts Council

As the novel progresses, children’s attitudes toward Boo Radley change over time. This is a significant sign of their growth from innocence to a mature moral perspective. Boo is seen as a source of childhood superstition in the beginning. Boo gradually becomes more real and interesting to Scout and Jem as he gives Scout presents and mending Jem’s trousers. Scout discovers that he is fully human at the end of the novel.

This shows Scout how she has grown into a caring and understanding individual. Scout has proven that she can mature to be an adult-like mental strength and has not allowed people to defame or insult her. It only shows you how poor the person is. It doesn’t harm you.” Boo is an intelligent child who was abandoned by his cruel father. He is a key symbol of human goodness and one of the most important mockingbirds of the book.

Boo is a pure-hearted person who has never let anyone down, regardless of the terrible things he’s been through. Boo, the ultimate symbol of goodness, saved Jem and Scout by Bob Ewell. Scout feels that Boo Radley’s hurt would be like Scout “shooting a mockingbird.” Miss Maudie tells Scout, “Mockingbirds don’t do anything but. . . We can hear their voices. Scout and Jem have the last name Finch. Scout and Jem are another small bird that prefers to be with their siblings.

Tom Robinson is a mockingbird lover who does only good. He is a loving husband, father and a faithful churchgoer. He is also a hardworking citizen. Tom claimed that he had been required to cross the Ewell house to get from his trial to work. Mayella asked him almost daily to help with chores at her house. He was to bring water and chop kindling for her. Mayella and her seven siblings tended to watch Tom as he worked. Tom stated that Mayella called him on the day of his alleged attack to repair a door.

Tom examined the hinges of the door and found nothing wrong. Tom said that he noticed something unusually quiet in the house and that Mayella’s siblings were not home. Mayella said that it had taken Mayella all year to save enough money so they could send the kids to town for ice cream. Tom says Mayella then asked Tom to grab a box from the top of the chifforobe. Mayella grabbed his legs while he was standing on the chair to grab the box.

Tom says that Mayella grabbed him and forced Tom to get off the chair. Mayella then hugged Tom and kissed him. Tom Robinson is a mockingbird due to his innocence. He has never harmed anyone, and is an admirable person who offers help to others. It’s a sin to harm Tom, because he’s innocent. Here is a parallel between the killing of a mockingbird, and the killing of a cripple, Tom. Both are defenseless before their enemies and, therefore, it is sinful for them to die that way.

Let’s conclude that the symbolism used in the Mockingbird through characters Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson is more than showing the good in everyone. These characters can be used to display the childlike innocence hidden deep within. They are used to demonstrate the maturity and depth of adulthood that human beings experience each day. Real courage isn’t “a man with his gun in his hand”. “It’s when your heart knows you have to start, but you persevere regardless of what.

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To Kill A Mockingbird Theme, Motifs, Symbols

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