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Symbolism of the Mockingbird in "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee


MozartVirtue 1 / 2  
May 26, 2013   #1
Prompt: How is the Mockingbird symbolized in "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a tale set in the Deep South in Maycomb, Alabama during the nine-tine thirties. This story depicts a dysfunctional American society permeated by prejudice, which results in the extensive segregation between racial and social means. It was proclaimed by Atticus that it was "a sin to kill a mockingbird", that mockingbirds are gentle, harmless creatures that "sing their hearts out" and brought happiness to the world. The author incorporates the imagery of the mockingbird to symbolize the destruction of innocence. Mockingbirds can be represented by Boo Radley, slain by society's prejudice towards those who don't conform; Tom Robinson, slain by injustice and racial prejudice; and Mayella Ewell, slain by society's prejudice towards those of a low social class, all who were undeservedly prosecuted by society.

Boo Radley represents a mockingbird slain by society's prejudice towards those who don't conform. Boo is a thoughtful, vulnerable man who is ridiculed by his neighbours. Scout describes Boo as a harmless, shy character, similar to the vulnerability of the mockingbird. His idle neighbours ridiculed and alienated him as he was a recluse who failed to meet the town's standards. The neighbourhood did not bother to reach out to him as they were intolerant to his differences. Gossips were made about him and he was known as a "malevolent phantom". Despite of the rejection he faced, Boo still persisted and extended his care towards Scout and Jem, even at the times when they were taunting him. He provides gifts in the knot-hole for them to collect, drapes a blanket over Scout's shoulders and most importantly saved the children's lives. These accumulated deeds in additional to his harmless personality proves that the neighbourhood's gossip was outrageously incorrect. Tom was not the "malevolent phantom" which commonfolk perceived, but a reserved and benevolent character. His personality was left untarnished even though suffering from rejection and hate. The Maycomb society has shot a mockingbird; Boo Radley was vulnerable and righteous but was heavily misunderstood as he failed to integrate into society.

Tom Robinson represents a mockingbird slain by injustice and racial prejudice. Tom is a gracious black man unjustly convicted and executed for a crime he did not commit. He was a noble caring person who was concerned for Mayella Ewell's wellbeing although she was white. In keeping with the theme of the munificent mockingbird, Tom does not make any effort to physically push Mayella away for her approaches, but rather chooses to flee and not harming Mayella in any way. The folk of Maycomb attempted to lynch Tom for entertainment as it was a custom to lynch a African American man accused of raping a white woman. Tom was left to suffer the wrath of injustice. The jurors decided that Tom was guilty despite convinced of his innocence. It was in the constitution that "when it's a white man's word over the black man's word, the white always wins". A racist public reasoned that Tom's death was the result of a "typical nigger cut and run", an expected blunder as African Americans were perceived to be delusional. Disregarding of Tom's caring personality, the town were blinded by their racial prejudice and judged him based on his skin colour; that African Americans were inferior and inhumane. The result of Tom is the act of slaying a mockingbird; he was compassionate but undeservedly lost his life, just because of society's prejudice over his ethnicity.

Mayella Ewell symbolises a mockingbird slain by society's prejudice towards those of a low social class. Mayella Ewell is a helpless white girl discriminated by society and who suffered under her father's oppression. She tends to geraniums, nurtures her younger siblings, and performs all the chores unaided. Instead of rewarding her, Bob Ewell would "beat her up" regularly. Due to her "living among pigs" and "had been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations", society discriminates her. The whites disassociate themselves from her due to her social standing and black people, who disassociate themselves from her because she is white. Compassionate and kindnesses were completely alien to her; when Atticus calls her "Miss Mayella", she accuses him of making fun of her. Mayella's vulnerability was apparent: she was robbed of her innocence, left to rot in poverty and neglect. Thus, Mayella is a slain mockingbird, a victim of society's prejudice.

However, Mayella is unlike Tom Robinson and Boo Radley; mockingbirds who have been unaffected by society's hate. Mayella's heart was disfigured by Maycomb's prejudice and spite. She is a mockingbird who got deprived from the chance to "sing her heart out", to shine like a beacon of hope in a pit of despair.

Harper Lee effectively uses the symbol of a mockingbird to illustrate torn souls who were undeservedly destroyed by the prejudice of society. The narrow-mindedness of the community destroyed two symbols of good, Boo Radley and Tom Robinson, and robbed Mayella Ewell of living a life full of prosperity. The hypocrisy of Maycomb drives it into disarray, thus becoming a dysfunctional society.
OP MozartVirtue 1 / 2  
May 26, 2013   #2
Any comments are appreciated!

Prompt: How is the Mockingbird symbolized in "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee?

"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee is a tale set in the Deep South in Maycomb, Alabama during the nine-tine thirties. This story depicts a dysfunctional American society permeated by prejudice, which results in the extensive segregation between racial and social means. It was proclaimed by Atticus that it was "a sin to kill a mockingbird", that mockingbirds are gentle, harmless creatures that "sing their hearts out" and brought happiness to the world. The author incorporates the imagery of the mockingbird to symbolize the destruction of innocence. Mockingbirds can be represented by Boo Radley, slain by society's prejudice towards those who don't conform; Tom Robinson, slain by injustice and racial prejudice; and Mayella Ewell, slain by society's prejudice towards those of a low social class, all who were undeservedly prosecuted by society.

Boo Radley represents a mockingbird slain by society's prejudice towards those who don't conform. Boo is a thoughtful, vulnerable man who is ridiculed by his neighbours. Scout describes Boo as a harmless, shy character, similar to the vulnerability of the mockingbird. His idle neighbours ridiculed and alienated him as he was a recluse who failed to meet the town's standards. The neighbourhood did not bother to reach out to him as they were intolerant to his differences. Gossips were made about him and he was known as a "malevolent phantom". Despite of the rejection he faced, Boo still persisted and extended his care towards Scout and Jem, even at the times when they were taunting him. He provides gifts in the knot-hole for them to collect, drapes a blanket over Scout's shoulders and most importantly saved the children's lives. These accumulated deeds in additional to his harmless personality proves that the neighbourhood's gossip was outrageously incorrect. Tom was not the "malevolent phantom" which commonfolk perceived, but a reserved and benevolent character. His personality was left untarnished even though suffering from rejection and hate. The Maycomb society has shot a mockingbird; Boo Radley was vulnerable and righteous but was heavily misunderstood as he failed to integrate into society.

Tom Robinson represents a mockingbird slain by injustice and racial prejudice. Tom is a gracious black man unjustly convicted and executed for a crime he did not commit. He was a noble caring person who was concerned for Mayella Ewell's wellbeing although she was white. In keeping with the theme of the munificent mockingbird, Tom does not make any effort to physically push Mayella away for her approaches, but rather chooses to flee and not harming Mayella in any way. The folk of Maycomb attempted to lynch Tom for entertainment as it was a custom to lynch a African American man accused of raping a white woman. Tom was left to suffer the wrath of injustice. The jurors decided that Tom was guilty despite convinced of his innocence. It was in the constitution that "when it's a white man's word over the black man's word, the white always wins". A racist public reasoned that Tom's death was the result of a "typical nigger cut and run", an expected blunder as African Americans were perceived to be delusional. Disregarding of Tom's caring personality, the town were blinded by their racial prejudice and judged him based on his skin color; that African Americans were inferior and inhumane. The result of Tom is the act of slaying a mockingbird; he was compassionate but undeservedly lost his life, just because of society's prejudice over his ethnicity.

Mayella Ewell symbolizes a mockingbird slain by society's prejudice towards those of a low social class. Mayella Ewell is a helpless white girl discriminated by society and who suffered under her father's oppression. She tends to geraniums, nurtures her younger siblings, and performs all the chores unaided. Instead of rewarding her, Bob Ewell would "beat her up" regularly. Due to her "living among pigs" and "had been the disgrace of Maycomb for three generations", society discriminates her. The whites disassociate themselves from her due to her social standing and black people, who disassociate themselves from her because she is white. Compassionate and kindnesses were completely alien to her; when Atticus calls her "Miss Mayella", she accuses him of making fun of her. Mayella's vulnerability was apparent: she was robbed of her innocence, left to rot in poverty and neglect. Thus, Mayella is a slain mockingbird, a victim of society's prejudice.

However, Mayella is unlike Tom Robinson and Boo Radley; mockingbirds who have been unaffected by society's hate. Mayella's heart was disfigured by Maycomb's prejudice and spite. She is a mockingbird who got deprived from the chance to "sing her heart out", to shine like a beacon of hope in a pit of despair.

Harper Lee effectively uses the symbol of a mockingbird to illustrate torn souls who were undeservedly destroyed by the prejudice of society. The narrow-mindedness of the community destroyed two symbols of good, Boo Radley and Tom Robinson, and robbed Mayella Ewell of living a life full of prosperity. The hypocrisy of Maycomb drives it into disarray, thus becoming a dysfunctional society.


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