Symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird
Set in Maycomb County, Alabama, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a novel about
a town where innocent Scout and Jem Finch grow up and learn the harsh reality of racism and
discrimination that exists in their daily lives. Their father Atticus, a lawyer, is one of the few
people in the town who does not support racism. This is shown when he is called to defend Tom
Robinson in court. Tom is a black man wrongly accused of rape purely because of his ethnicity.
The children also experience a moral dilemma through their harassment of their neighbor, Boo
Radley. After involving himself with the wrong crowd, Boo gets in trouble with the law and his
father locks him in the house. This peculiar isolation leads to many rumors spreading throughout
the town about Boo being a monster, which strikes the children’s curiosity. Atticus teaches them
to never shoot a mockingbird, because all they do is make music for people to listen to. The idea
of this mockingbird remains symbolic throughout the book for the innocence and purity of the
children, Tom Robinson, and Boo Radley. In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a
mockingbird symbolically represents the mistreatment of innocent characters as seen through the
lessons taught by Atticus, the harassment of Boo Radley, and the unjust trial of Tom Robinson.
Growing up in a privileged and educated family, the Finch children’s unbiased view on
the world is sculpted with open mindedness, unlike many others in the town of Maycomb.
Atticus teaches them to respect everyone, despite their wealth or race. When Atticus gives the
children air-rifles for Christmas, he refuses to teach the children to shoot and instructs them to
never kill a mockingbird. When the confused children turn to their neighbor, Miss Maudie, for an
explanation, she reasons that, “They don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s
why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird” (Lee 119). This lesson is extremely important for the Finch
children throughout the book. It teaches them that punishing someone who does not deserve it, is
unacceptable. In a way, the mockingbird represents the children, because they remain innocent
despite cruelty in their town. The children are spectators of the trial of Tom Robinson, who is
convicted for rape purely because of his race. Even after being exposed to these ideals, Scout and
Jem remain innocent, much like a mockingbird. Everyone in their town shows that they believe it
is morally acceptable to put an innocent man in jail solely because he is black.
Although the children never shoot a mockingbird, Maycomb County does. They shoot
down Tom Robinson, an innocent black man who is imprisoned to maintain the pride of the
ignorant white Ewell family. After Mayella Ewell is caught forcing herself onto Tom by her
father, she accuses Tom of rape and assault to conceal her own shame. As Atticus says in his