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A symbol is an object that represents another to give it an entirely different meaning that is deeper and more significant. In many novels, movies, poems, and plays, authors use symbols to add depth and richness to their story. One author who uses symbolism is Harper Lee, the writer of To Kill a Mockingbird. To Kill a Mockingbird is told from the perspective of Scout Finch, a curious and naïve child, who lives in the made-up town of Maycomb, Alabama. She lives with Jem, her older brother, and her dad, Atticus, who is a district attorney. Scout, Jem, and her best friend Dill, are intrigued with their obscure neighbor, and they're perplexed by the racism in their town. The mockingbird serves as an important symbol in the novel, and it connects to both the characters and the plot line.
To begin with, the symbol of the mockingbird represents the idea of innocence and purity. When Atticus first gave Jem and Scout their new air-rifles he told Jem, "‘I’d rather you shot 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’” (90). In other words, if you kill a mockingbird, you're eradicating something innocuous and committing a misdeed. Another reason the mockingbird expresses virtuousness is told by Miss Maudie who tells Scout, “‘Your father is right…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 out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird’" (90). In addition to the mockingbird being innocuous and sinful to kill, it is an important part in further elaborating the story, and being able to understand it.
Furthermore, there are various characters in the book that can be considered mockingbirds, two of these characters are Tom Robinson and Boo Radley. Tom is considered a mockingbird, because he was an honorable and kind man, who only got killed, because his word would not stand against the word of a white woman. After Tom Robinson got killed Mr. Raymond compared his death to “the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children,” (241). To put it differently, Tom’s death is a sin committed by the racism in Maycomb, because Tom was charged as guilty, even though he didn’t hurt Mayella Ewell. Another example of a mockingbird is Boo Radley, who was the mysterious neighbor Scout, Jem, and Dill were obsessed with. After Boo saves the children of Bob Ewell, Heck Tate convinces Atticus to agree to tell Maycomb that Bob Ewell fell on his knife instead of saying that Boo stabbed him, Atticus asked Scout if she understands why, and she says, “Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?” (276). To explain, Scout compares telling Maycomb that Boo saved Jem, and her to killing a mockingbird, because Boo has lived peacefully in the Radley house without disturbing anybody, and if everyone finds out he would be in the limelight, which is something he would not enjoy. Not only does the mockingbird connect to these two characters, but to many others in the novel.
Lastly, the mockingbird symbol connects to the plot line of To Kill a Mockingbird. The two main plots of the story are the enigma of Boo Radley and Tom Robinson’s trial. These two plots are connected by the symbol of the mockingbird, because both Boo and Tom are contemplated as mockingbirds. To clarify, in the adult world the trial focuses on Tom Robinson an innocent man who is convicted of rape simply because he is black. In the children’s world, their fascination with Boo Radley depicts the curiosity of children, and their need to satisfy themselves with answers. Nevertheless, both of these characters have very different endings, while Tom Robinson is killed, Boo Radley becomes a savior and a friend. This shows how the fate of these two characters is tied up with the symbol of the mockingbird.
In conclusion, the mockingbird is displayed as something unadulterated and holy. It correlates two of the most important characters in this novel with only its significance. These two characters are what the two main plots revolve around, while including the sinlessness of the mockingbird, and the perspective of a child. To Kill a Mockingbird gives a profound and powerful meaning to the small, magnificent mockingbird.