Symbolism In "To Kill A Mocking Bird" By Harper Lee

1716 words - 7 pages

'I'd rather you shoot at tin cans in the backyard, 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.' This is what Atticus Finch tells his children after they are given air-rifles for Christmas. Uniquely, the title of the classic novel by Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird, was taken from this passage. At first glance, one may wonder why Harper Lee decided to name her book after what seems to be a rather insignificant excerpt. After careful study, however, one begins to see that this is just another example of symbolism in the novel. Harper Lee uses symbolism rather extensively throughout this story, and much of it refers to the problems of racism in the South during the early twentieth century. Harper Lee's effective use of racial symbolism can be seen by studying various examples from the book. This includes the actions of the children, the racist whites, and the actions of Atticus Finch.The actions of the children in this novel certainly do have their share of symbolism. For instance, the building of a snowman by Jem and Scout one winter is very symbolic. There was not enough snow to make a snowman entirely out of snow, so Jem made a foundation out of dirt, and then covered it with what snow they had. One could interpret this in two different ways. First of all, the creation of the snowman by Jem can be seen as being symbolic of Jem trying to cover up the black man and showing that he is the same as the white man, that all human beings are virtually the same. Approval of these views is shown by Atticus when he tells Jem, 'I didn't know how you were going to do it, but from now on I'll never worry about what'll become of you, son, you'll always have an idea.' The fire that night that engulfed Miss Maudie Atkinson's house can be seen as the prejudice of Maycomb County, as the fire melted the snow from the snowman, and left nothing but a clump of mud. The fire depicts the prejudice people of the county saying that blacks and whites are, certainly, not the same. Another way of looking at the symbolism of the snowman would be to say that Jem's combination of mud and snow signifies miscegenation, marriage or sexual relations between persons of different races. The fire at Miss Maudie Atkinson's could, once again, be seen as the prejudice of Maycomb County showing that the mixed child is, in fact, no better than a pure black child, and that the two are, actually, one and the same. Jem and Scout's encounters with Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose are also filled with symbolism. Mrs. Dubose and her insults, which included, 'Your father's no better than the niggers and trash he works for!' not only show us her own views, but they also represent the views of the rest of Maycomb County. As they were going by the house later that day Jem snatched Scout's baton and 'ran flailing wildly up the steps into Mrs. Dubose's front yard...He did not begin to calm down until he had cut the...

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