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How Harper Lee uses the Mockingbird motif.

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Introduction

How Harper Lee uses the Mockingbird motif "To Kill A Mockingbird" has a main theme of prejudice and the persecution of innocent and harmless individuals. The main themes of this book very much link in with the title, which is explained by Harper Lee through Atticus and Miss Maudie (pg 96.) Miss Maudie explains - "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird. This is the first obvious reference to the title of the book and the mockingbird motif. The message Harper Lee is trying to convey through Miss Maudie is that it's wrong to kill a mockingbird because they never do anything to harm anything or anyone, and it really is a sin to harm something that has never committed a crime or hurt anyone. I think Harper Lee intends the reader to apply this to people as well. The mockingbird represents the innocent people in the book who have never done anything wrong but are persecuted just for being different (the two main examples being Tom Robinson for being black and "Boo" Radley for living in solitude.) ...read more.

Middle

There are many mockingbirds: Walter Cunningham, Mrs Dubose, the roly-poly that Scout wants to squash, Helen Robinson to name a few. For instance, Walter Cunningham is persecuted (often not deliberately but through ignorance of his situation, such as when Miss Caroline embarrasses him by trying to lend him money he cannot return) because he lives in poverty, although he does no harm to anyone. Mrs Dubose has a sharp tongue but this is probably partly caused by the pain she is going through and is just the way she is. Underneath she is a good person, but she is persecuted for being old and irritable which she cannot really help. Jem attacks her flowers; she is powerless to do anything but try to break him down verbally. Atticus tries to explain all this to Jem, but at this stage Jem is very far from being grown up and doesn't truly understand. The roly-poly is a small, harmless creature, which Scout is going to kill needlessly, until Jem stops her by saying it's wrong because it's never done anything to hurt her. Helen Robinson is helpless and harmless and has probably never done a thing to hurt a soul in her entire life. ...read more.

Conclusion

The author can see how wrong this is, or the book would never have been written. We can see how wrong this is. But the sad thing is that many people couldn't see how wrong it was. The sad thing is that there were many, many people who were not like Atticus, or Scout, or Miss Maudie in their attitudes but more like Mrs Merriweather and the other hypocritical and prejudiced characters living in Maycomb - and probably still are, though far fewer. One of the reasons Harper Lee cared so much about getting this message across was probably because she saw the great injustice and wanted other people to see it too and see how wrong it was so that someday these injustices would stop taking place. Tom, an innocent man, ends up dead for a crime he never committed, and it is said that he was a dead man as soon as Mayella screamed. I believe that this is true - as soon as a young white woman decided that she was going to pin a crime in a black man his sentence was a foregone conclusion - guilty, whether he was or not. It is not fair, but it's true. Tom was a mockingbird, victimized despite his innocence, and the act was a sin. Boo Radley, or Arthur Radley, was persecuted for being different also. ...read more.

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