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To Kill a Mockingbird: Walking in Their Shoes Essay

Many authors utilize symbolism in their stories or novels for several reasons. Ideas, objects, and characters can be related to these symbols to add a deeper meaning to the story. Writers can use these symbols to communicate a more profound impression than what they actually engrave on the pages. These unique symbols also help readers relate scenes from the book to other main ideas or stories. Some authors even link these symbols into the title of the book even if some of the symbols aren’t recognized until the end. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee uses the mockingbird as a symbol to add significance and prominence to the story and characters. In this classic novel, there are characters that can be referred to as a mockingbird. By examining the actions of these characters, readers can recognize the importance of the mockingbird symbol and understand why Arthur “Boo” Radley and Tom Robinson are both great examples of mockingbirds in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Harper Lee’s use of the mockingbird symbol is a unique way to show the importance of many scenes in every corner of her historic novel. The mockingbird shows it’s importance at moments in the story during and after the court case as well as when Atticus teaches Scout and Jem important lessons. Atticus is constantly teaching Scout throughout the book not to judge someone until she steps into their own shoes. “‘… Atticus, he was real nice…’ ‘Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.’”(Lee 376). In this quote from To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is reading The Grey Ghost by Seckatary Hawkins to Scout. Although Scout is about to pass out, Atticus reads it to her anyways. Stoner’s Boy, one of the characters, was accused of messing up a clubhouse in the book.

He was chased and chased until the other characters realized who Stoner’s Boy really was and that he was not guilty. Even Scout, a little girl, realized that Stoner’s Boy was kind and had been falsely accused of throwing ink all over the clubhouse, and Atticus goes on to explain that most people are but only when you truly know them. This quote truly shows how important the mockingbird symbol is in To Kill a Mockingbird. Many people are falsely accused and called guilty even though they are innocent and in turn, have their lives taken away or their reputation killed. Most of these incorrect actions are caused by prejudice, racism, and hypocrisy which are all known to be sins but are carried through with anyways. The characters in To Kill a Mockingbird experience what Stoner’s Boy does as well.

Tom Robinson is an African American in To Kill a Mockingbird that served more than he harmed which is why he symbolizes a mockingbird in the story. During the first half of the 1900’s, African Americans, having slightly more freedom, were still accused and found guilty because of their skin color. Even when proven innocent, the court finds a way around it. “Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men’s hearts Atticus had no case.”(Lee 323).

Tom Robinson was accused of rape in To Kill a Mockingbird by a young woman who had actually lusted after him. There was plenty of evidence that pointed to Tom’s side of the case that of which Atticus points out during the court case, but no matter what Atticus did, the people in the jury called Tom guilty because of their racist hearts and minds. Tom Robinson was eventually killed by 17 hate-fueled bullets when he fled from the court case due to his own fear of being falsely accused. African Americans should not have to be scared because of racism; that is one of the messages Harper Lee sends to the south through the symbolism of the mockingbird, but it’s not the only one.

Arthur “Boo” Radley is referred to as a killer, recluse, and a malevolent phantom in To Kill a Mockingbird although he does nothing but keep to himself throughout most of the story. Many people come up with stories to explain the unknown, and that is what happens to Boo Radley in the story. No one ever sees Boo Radley in the book until near the end, but virtually all the characters already have a painted picture of Boo in their mind before they encounter him. “‘To my way of thinkin’, Mr. Finch, taking the one man who’s done you and this town a great service an’ draggin’ him with his shy ways into the limelight—to me, that’s a sin.’ ‘Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”’(Lee 370).

In this quote, the sheriff explains to Mr. Finch that he does not want the town of Maycomb to know that Boo Radley killed Bob Ewell, thus saving Jem. The sheriff believes that it would be a sin to introduce a recluse to people like those in Maycomb. Scout then speaks to Atticus and says that it would be the same as killing a mockingbird, because to kill a mockingbird is a sin. Boo Radley, although he never literally dies in the book, has his reputation destroyed by citizens of Maycomb sharing ridiculous stories that create a stereotype for Boo and people like him. The sheriff saves Boo from what would have almost been a second “death” by protecting him from civilization and saying that Bob Ewell killed himself.

Harper Lee carries tremendously meaningful messages with her writing in To Kill a Mockingbird. By examining the individual stories of the characters Tom Robinson and Boo Radley, readers can see the importance of the mockingbird symbol and why Tom and Boo are recognized as mockingbirds. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the use of the mockingbird as a symbol by Harper Lee demonstrates how important the characters are and adds prominence to the story itself. Lee added an endless amount of connections in her writing, and the mockingbird links to many of them. Although so few people understand why the title of the book is what it is, it’s there for a distinct reason. To kill a mockingbird is a sin. Killing someone because of racism, any form of prejudice, and improper judgment will always be a sin. Lee writes about many sins in her novel, but judging someone before you even know them will always be number one in her story.


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