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Symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird

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Introduction

Discuss how Lee has utilised symbolism in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird and how this offers meanings to readers. One of the language techniques used in novels is that of symbols and motifs. A symbol is something that represents something else by association, resemblance or convention, especially a material object used to represent something invisible. In To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee, the use of symbols plays an important role in the development of the main themes and central ideas of the novel. The novel explores the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of North America in the thirties as well as the themes of courage, acceptance and personal integrity, through the eyes of the young narrator, Scout Finch. Lee uses symbolism extensively throughout the novel. This essay will present one of those symbols and examine how it is used to represent a number of ideas within the novel. One of the major symbols that emerges in the novel is that of the mockingbird. ...read more.

Middle

Tom Robinson has not harmed anyone; in fact he has served the white community with his labour just as the mockingbird serves humanity with its song. After Tom's death, Mr Underwood's editorial in the Maycomb Tribune draws out the comparison to the mockingbirds '...he likened Tom's death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children...'. The use of this symbolism is illustrating the loss or destruction of innocence by evil. As a negroe, Tom Robinson could not convince prejudiced townspeople of his innocence, which ultimately destroyed him. Arthur (Boo) Radley is another mockingbird. He does not harm anyone; instead he leaves Jem and Scout presents and covers Scout with a blanket during the fire. Despite the pureness of his heart, Boo has been damaged by an abusive father. When Atticus tries to explain to Scout why Arthur must be spared the publicity which would result from informing the community of his part in the children's escape from Mr Ewell, she understands at one, '...well, it'd be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?' ...read more.

Conclusion

The mockingbird is a mimic, capable of imitating the songs of different birds. It is doing exactly what Atticus has told the children that they should try to do; to stand in other people's shoes. The suggestion here is that the mockingbird is more flexible than human beings as it constantly takes the part of other birds. As is evidenced by the above, mockingbirds are used in a variety of ways as symbols of innocence, goodness, happiness and security. The mockingbirds in the novel are the innocent, who bring pleasure to others and this was evidenced in the characters of Tom Robinson and Arthur (Boo) Radley. Harper Lee shows us that it is a sin to kill or injure such people. The symbolism implied in the title To Kill a Mockingbird means to destroy innocence and happiness. It is no accident, perhaps, that the best human being in the story is given the name of a bird - Finch. ...read more.

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