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Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird

1380 words - 6 pages

In the last century, there have certainly been many "greats" - novels, books and stories

that impress, amaze and make one think. Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird", however, is

unique among all these poignant pieces of literature in that the novel solely develops Lee's idea,

brought out by Atticus in the novel, to "...shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but

remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" (90). This phrase is expounded by the character Miss

Maudie when she says "...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

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"...'did all this for not
one penny?' 'Yes, suh.' " (197) He is the victim of not only racial prejudice, but the system of
segregation the town of Maycomb lived in. Even when he was sentenced, the jurors had no
quarrel with him - they just felt that to take the word of a black man over two whites' would
jeapordize that system of segregation that they lived by. Tom as a symbol is further continued by
Mr. Underwood, when he writes after Tom's death, trying to escape from his captivity, that he
- 2

"simply figured it was a sin to kill cripples, be they standing, sitting, or escaping. He likened Tom's
death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters or children." (241) This correllation is
evident, as both mockingbirds and Tom, a crippled man, are completely defenceless before their
hunters and persecutors.

Another illustration of the mockingbird symbol in "To Kill A Mockingbird" is the young 5-

year-old character and narrator of the novel, Jean Louise, or "Scout" Finch. The name "Finch"

represents another small bird, and indicates that Scout is particularly vincible in the racially

prejudiced world she grew up in, Maycomb, a place that often treats the innocence of childhood

harshly. Scout experiences her first contact with evil when her father, Atticus Finch, becomes the

lawyer for Tom Robinson, and she has to bear the brunt of racial prejudice from teachers,

'friends', relatives and other citizens of Maycomb. " "I guess it's not your fault if Uncle Atticus is a

nigger-lover besides, but i'm here to tell you it certainly does mortify the rest of the family-" " (83).

Because of this exposure, Scout's develpment is ruled by the question of how she will emerge

from it - with her conscience and state of mind intact or with it being spoiled and destroyed like the

characters Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. Even thought Scout remains a child throughout the

entire book, her perspective on life in general develops from that of a naive and innocent child into

a near-adult. This is displayed when Scout seems to understand a concept that even some adults

don't - " 'Yes sir, I understand," I reassured him. "Mr Tate was right." ..."Well, it'd sort of be like

shootin' a mockingbird, wouldnt it?" " (276) This is partly due to Atticus' wisdom, as through him,

Scout learns that even thought mankind will always have the ability to perform much evil, it also

has the same capacity to do the opposite. " "Atticus, he was real nice..." His hands were under my

chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me. "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see

them." " (281). Scout's realization and development into the idea that evil can often be alleviated

with a prospect of understanding and empathy indicates the climax and conclusion of the novel,

and creates the feeling that whatever evil Scout confronts, she will be ready and will withhold her


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