Symbolism In "To Kill A Mockingbird" By Harper Lee

1585 words - 6 pages

'I'd rather you shoot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you'll goafter birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want , if you can hit 'em, butremember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.' This is what Atticus Finchtells his children after they are given air-rifles for Christmas. Uniquely,the title of the classic novel by Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird, wastaken from this passage. At first glance, one may wonder why Harper Leedecided to name her book after what seems to be a rather insignificantexcerpt. After careful study, however, one begins to see that this is justanother example of symbolism in the novel. Harper Lee uses symbolism ratherextensively throughout this story, and much of it refers to the problems ofracism in the South during the early twentieth century. Harper Lee'seffective use of racial symbolism can be seen by studying various examplesfrom the book. This includes the actions of the children, the racistwhites, and the actions of Atticus Finch.The actions of the children in this novel certainly do have their share ofsymbolism. For instance, the building of a snowman by Jem and Scout onewinter is very symbolic. There was not enough snow to make a snowmanentirely out of snow, so Jem made a foundation out of dirt, and thencovered it with what snow they had. One could interpret this in twodifferent ways. First of all, the creation of the snowman by Jem can beseen as being symbolic of Jem trying to cover up the black man and showingthat he is the same as the white man, that all human beings are virtuallythe same. Approval of these views is shown by Atticus when he tells Jem, 'Ididn't know how you were going to do it, but from now on I'll never worryabout what'll become of you, son, you'll always have an idea.' The firethat night that engulfed Miss Maudie Atkinson's house can be seen as theprejudice 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 peopleof 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 thatJem's combination of mud and snow signifies miscegenation, marriage orsexual relations between persons of different races. The fire at MissMaudie Atkinson's could, once again, be seen as the prejudice of MaycombCounty showing that the mixed child is, in fact, no better than a pureblack child, and that the two are, actually, one and the same. Jem andScout's encounters with Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose are also filled withsymbolism. Mrs. Dubose and her insults, which included, 'Your father's nobetter than the niggers and trash he works for!' not only show us her ownviews, but they also represent the views of the rest of Maycomb County. Asthey 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 didnot begin to calm down until he had cut the tops off every camellia bushMrs. Dubose...

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