Its a sin to kill a mockingbird.
This line, spoken by Atticus, sums up the theme
of this book. A mockingbird is a harmless bird that makes the world more pleasant. In
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the mockingbird symbolizes Boo Radley and
Tom Robinson, who were both peaceful people who never did any harm. To kill or harm
them would be a sin.
Scouts father, Atticus, tells Scout and Jem, Id rather you shoot at
tin cans in the backyard, but I know youll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you
want, if you can hitem, but remember its a sin to kill a mockingbird.(p.69) The
mockingbird symbolizes these two characters because it does not have its own song.
Whereas, the blue jay is loud and obnoxious, the mockingbird only sings other birds
songs. Therefore, the mockingbird is seen through the other birds.
The people of
Maycomb only knew Boo Radley and Tom Robinson by what others said about them.
Both of these characters do not really have their own song in a sense, and therefore, are
characterized by other peoples viewpoints.Boo Radley went through his life never wanting to hurt a fly. He left gum,
pennies, and wax dolls for Scout and Jem. He sewed Jems pants and left them on the
fence so he could get them easily.
He also saved Scouts and Jems lives while risking
his own. Boo was a fragile and gentle person. Throughout the novel, Scout, Jem, and
Dill are curious about the mysterious Boo Radley because he never comes outside from
his house or associates with anyone in the neighborhood. The children are, in fact, afraid
of him because of all the stories they hear about him from the people in Maycomb. For
example, Miss Stephanie tells the children that while Boo was sitting in the living room
cutting a magazine, he drove the scissors into his parents leg, pulled them out, wiped
them on his pants, and resumed his activities.
(p.ll) After hearing stories like these, the
children consider him to be evil. Gradually they assume more about Boo because he
never plays outside or with anyone, and therefore, the children are not convinced
otherwise. Boo Radley becomes a game for the children and they act out Boo Radley
scenarios that they believed to be true. These stories were based on the gossip that trails
through their neighborhood. In reality, no one knew anything about Boo Radley.
stayed inside of his house and remained reclusive in Maycomb County. At the end of the
book, Scout finally meets Boo Radley after he helps her and Jem escape Mr. Ewell. She
finds that her beliefs about him are not true. Essentially, she finds the songs that the
neighbors were putting into his mouth were not true.
Chopping wood and doing whatever he could for Mayella Ewell was Tom
Robinsons only crime. Just like Boo Radley, Tom never harmed a soul. He risked his
own safety by helping Mayella, and he did it because someone needed him. It was like a
mockingbird being shot down when Robinson was accused of raping Mayella. To the
people of Maycomb County, Tom Robinson is just a sorry nigger, who committed an
unthinkable crime. Tom represents the black race in American society at that time and
was a victim of racism.
Like Boo Radley, Tom Robinson is characterized by what the
people of Maycomb County say about him. After being accused of rape, most of the
people see him as an evil beast. During the trial while Bob Ewell testifies, he points to
Tom Robinson and says, I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin on my Mayella. (p.73)
According to Mr.
Ewell, Tom Robinson is an animal who tormented and violated his
daughter. Throughout the trial, Tom is portrayed in this manner because of the racist
mentality of the people in Maycomb. Even though there is a sufficient amount of proof
which shows he did not commit the crime, Tom is a black man who will be denied
justice. Atticus reinforces this idea when he tells Jem, in our courts, when its a white
mans word against a black mans, the white man always wins. (p.
220) Generally, this
was the mentality of most Americans at the time. Black people did not have their own
song, other people sang their songs based on beliefs about them. Like Boo Radley,
people only knew Tom Robinson through what others said about him.In the book, Boo Radley is a micro version of Tom Robinson.
Boo is the outcast
of the neighborhood, but at the time, Tom was the outcast of the society. Throughout the
trial, Scout and Jem believe in Tom Robinsons innocence. They see him for who they
believe he is, and do not know enough about racism to be part of it. They did not believe
the trial was fair because they believed there was evidence in Tom Robinsons favor. At
the end of the book, however, Scout realizes the same about Boo Radley. When she
finally meets him, she sees how unfair she had been to him.
In actuality, Boo contradicts
everything that the children believed about him. The fact that no one realized the unfair
treatment of Tom Robinson made his death that much more tragic.Harper Lee uses the mockingbird to symbolize Tom and Boo. When Atticus tells
Jem and Scout that it is a sin to kill the mockingbird, this refers to the actions directed
toward Tom and Boo.
It was a sin to dislike Tom and Boo based on what others say
about them. They were punished by the people in Maycomb because they did not have
their own voice. Lee is trying to explain to her readers that there are many people
without their own voice in our society. As it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, it is a sin to
kill those without a voice. Scout realized that it was wrong to assume evil things about
It was unfortunate that the people of Maycomb did not realize their unfair
treatment of Tom Robinson. A mockingbird was shot and the readers get to see how