Symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Harper Lee has used symbolism rather extensively throughout the novel
and a great deal of it refers to the problems of racism in the South
during the early twentieth century. Symbolism can be traced in almost
every important episode or event which formulates the story line.
Right from the beginning Scout's character and her outlook towards the
behavior of the people in Maycomb county symbolizes a child's innate
curiosity towards life. It also portrays the untainted intelligence
which helps her see beyond what is apparent.
Scout's understanding of Walter Cunningham's poverty and his
self-pride is a prime example of this. Even Scout and Jem's
relationship with Calpurnia symbolizes the rare understanding of
racism prevalent during those times.
Miss Maudie is a classic example of the enlightened woman living in an
age of suppressed womanhood. Miss Maudie hates staying indoors and is
always seen pottering around her garden, working on her flowerbeds.
She understands Atticus' need to fight against the racial prejudices
and believes in him absolutely. When her house gets burnt down,
instead of moping about it, she is back on her feet the next day,
restoring her house and her garden. She is thus a symbol of strength
Mrs. Dubose symbolizes the grit and determination of a woman, who
though aware of the fact that she is going to die soon, wants to do so
with all her wits about her. Her addiction to morphine is a negative
factor and she attempts to overcome it appreciably.
Finally, the deepest symbolism conveyed is through the use of the
concept of the mockingbird. The mockingbird is a symbol of everything
that is harmless. They only make music for others to enjoy and to kill
such a being is a sin. Both Boo Radley and Tom Robinson are harmless
individuals, who never intend to hurt a soul. Yet Tom's life is lost,
and this is like shooting a mockingbird. As Scout wisely says: to hurt
Boo Radley too would be like killing a mockingbird. Thus the
mockingbird has been used to symbolize the good and the harmless
things in this world which should not be abused. As Mary Clare points
out, the mockingbird is a symbol for two of the characters in the
novel: Tom Robinson and Boo Radley.
In the novel, the people of Maycomb only know Boo Radley and Tom
Robinson by what others say about them. According to a critic "Both of
these characters do not really have their own 'song' in a sense, and
therefore, are characterized by other people's viewpoints."
MORALITY IN THE NOVEL
Harper Lee, through her novel has attempted to present certain moral
truths to the reader: the underlying morality of the Maycomb county