An Analysis of Symbolism in “To Kill a Mockingbird"

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“Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird,” Atticus Finch advises his children (90). A neighbor, Mrs. Maudie, explains why: “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” (90). Mockingbirds are a prevalent symbol throughout Harper Lee’s novel. Any character that does no harm, yet is harmed by others can be considered a “mockingbird”. Additionally, the novel illustrates the theme of prejudice in a multitude of forms. In “To Kill a Mockingbird”, the symbol of the mockingbird supports the theme of prejudice in sexism, ostracism, and racism.
The first mockingbird in the novel is Scout Finch, the tomboy narrator. From a young age, she has resented “girly things”, most likely because her upbringing was influenced by her widowed father and older brother. “Scout,… shut your trap or go home—I declare to the Lord you’re gettin’ more like a girl every day!” Jem tells her (51). Jem uses the word “girl” with a negative connotation, and Scout will do anything to keep Jem and Dill from thinking of her as a girl. Aunt Alexandra, her father’s sister, is later brought into her life to provide a feminine influence; however, her aunt only chastises Scout for her tomboy ways: “Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn’t supposed to be doing things that required pants” (81). Aunt Alexandra’s attitude about pants shows what she deems acceptable for a young lady; she believes Scout should conform to the stereotypical gender role of a woman. Scout is a mockingbird, for she is ridiculed when she challenges society’s idea of a young lady by staying true to herself. By the end of the novel, Scout succumbs to the pressure, and ultimately changes into what the town wants her to be, a prim and proper young woman. This is a form of prejudice, and it illustrates the theme of ubiquitous sexism present in Maycomb.
Boo Radley, another citizen of Maycomb, is ostracized by the entire community, as he prefers to stay in his house and not witness the evils of prejudice present in town. Everyone slanders him, spreading harsh rumors about Boo: “He goes out… when it’s pitch dark. Miss Stephanie Crawford said she woke up in the middle of the night one...

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