An Exploration of Innocence in "To Kill A Mockingbird"

Categories: To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird" is a timeless exploration of innocence and its profound impact on challenging societal norms. In this essay, we delve into the intricate ways innocence shapes the narrative, focusing on three pivotal instances within the novel. Through these instances, Lee not only captures the essence of childhood but also confronts the moral complexities of a society entrenched in deep-rooted injustices.

Instance 1: Mockingbird Symbolism (Chapter 10)

Let's first examine Chapter 10, a seemingly ordinary chapter where Scout and Jem receive rifles for Christmas.

Little do they know that this innocuous event carries profound symbolism that echoes throughout the narrative. Atticus's cautionary words, "I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird," sparks Scout's curiosity about the peculiar saying.

Seeking clarification from Miss Maudie, the family's helper, unveils the depth of the metaphor.

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Miss Maudie explains, "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."

While the metaphor may seem simple, it extends beyond birds, becoming a poignant representation of childhood innocence. Killing a mockingbird equates to destroying innocence, a concept crucial in shaping the narrative.

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The innocence of children, depicted through Scout and Jem, becomes a central focus, suggesting that preserving innocence is paramount, even in a society grappling with deep-seated prejudices.

Instance 2: Scout's Intervention (Chapter 15)

Chapter 15 unfolds a tense scene at the jail where Atticus guards Tom Robinson for his protection. A hostile crowd assembles with intentions of harming Robinson and Atticus if necessary. Unbeknownst to Atticus, Scout secretly observes the situation, eventually intervening to diffuse the escalating tension.

Her innocence becomes a powerful force as she engages Mr. Cunningham in dialogue, reminding him of their shared humanity. The lamp-lit scene symbolizes the penetrating quality of innocence, breaking through the callousness of the townspeople. Through Scout's actions, Lee emphasizes that innocence can bridge divides, prompting a realization among the townspeople that Atticus is not an adversary but a fellow neighbor.

Instance 3: Dill's Reaction to Injustice (Chapter 19)

In Chapter 19, Dill's emotional response during Tom Robinson's trial unveils another layer of innocence. Witnessing the prosecutor's discriminatory treatment based on Tom Robinson's race, Dill becomes visibly distraught. His tears reflect a child's innate sense of justice, unclouded by societal prejudices.

This instance shapes the narrative by exposing the stark contrast between the unblemished perspective of a child and the biased views of adults. Dill's reaction serves as a poignant commentary on the prevalence of injustice, challenging readers to reevaluate their own perceptions. Lee employs Dill's character to underscore that even children can discern right from wrong, a stark reminder to adults who may have lost sight of moral clarity.

Overall Use of Innocence Throughout the Book

Lee consistently employs innocence throughout the narrative, especially during Tom Robinson's trial, a sensitive subject during the Civil Rights Movement. Innocence, as portrayed through Scout, Jem, and Dill, becomes a lens through which the author critiques societal wrongs. The children's ability to recognize injustice serves as a powerful commentary on the prevailing attitudes of the time.

Furthermore, the cultural and historical context of the Civil Rights Movement adds depth to the exploration of innocence as a tool for social critique. Lee's decision to utilize the natural innocence of children serves as a brave commentary on racial injustice, providing readers with a fresh perspective during a tumultuous period.


In conclusion, "To Kill A Mockingbird" masterfully utilizes the theme of innocence to challenge societal norms and prejudices in a Southern town. The instances discussed, from mockingbird symbolism to Scout's intervention and Dill's emotional response, collectively shape the narrative. Harper Lee's strategic use of innocence serves not only to preserve the integrity of childhood but also to confront the moral complexities of a society grappling with deep-rooted injustices.

Updated: Jan 02, 2024
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An Exploration of Innocence in "To Kill A Mockingbird". (2016, Nov 25). Retrieved from

An Exploration of Innocence in "To Kill A Mockingbird" essay
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