View Full Version : To Kill a Mockingbird
08-04-2004, 05:46 PM
This was an old assignment (sp?) from my standard grade english class, two years ago. I found it on one of my CD-RW discs when hunting for music earlier today, and I figured I would post it for you all. Plus, I just finished reading "To Kill a Mockingbird", for the second time, so... :)
To Kill a Mockingbird
Set in early 20th century Maycomb County, Southwest America, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a story about prejudice, growing up and morality. Throughout the story, references are made to the “Mockingbird”, often when giving descriptions of good and bad. In my essay, I intend to discuss these references to the “Mockingbird”.
As mentioned, there are many references to the “mockingbird” in the story. Often, the references are used the highlight the difference between good and bad. Perhaps the most memorable of all the references is when Ms. Maudie tells Jem and Scout (the main characters) why it is a sin to kill a mockingbird: “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 the 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.”
The symbolism attached to the mockingbird is that they are innocent creatures, with no evil in them. They don’t do anything wrong, or to annoy people. They are totally innocent birds who can make people happy.
Later in the book, at chapter 25, Mr Underwood (the newspaper editor) mentions the mockingbird, with these attributes attached. In this case, it is to do with Tom Robinson, an African American boy, who was wrongfully accused of rape and assault. Given a prison sentence, Tom tries to escape, and is shot down. The point made in the story, however, is that guard did not shoot simply to maim. He shot to kill. Mr Underwood writes in the Tribunal’s editorial of how wrong this was for Robinson to be killed so cruelly – particularly since he was innocent, and he’s crippled, having had his arm caught in a machine at a younger age. Mr. Underwood speaks of Tom as being like the mockingbird, he “simply figured it was a sin to kill cripples, be they standing, sitting, or escaping. He likened Tom’s death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters, and children.” The author (writing as Jean Louise, aka, Scout) goes on to mention that Mr. Finch (Atticus, Jean’s Dad.) had used every trick to get Tom free. Unfortunately, the prejudices in men’s hearts were stronger than words alone could convey, and Tom was dead the minute Mayella Ewell (the so-called, “victim”.) cried for help.
In chapter 28, the simple reference to mockingbirds singing in trees is made. In this case, it is made because the mocker is sitting in Arthur “Boo” Radley’s tree. “Boo” is a mysterious figure, whom, earlier in the novel, had been coerced into coming out of his house, by the children (Jem, Jean and Dill). They had tried to make “Boo” come out, so that they could find out what he looked like, if rumours and stories were true. Now, in 28, a mockingbird is sitting in the tree, blissfully unaware that this tree is “Boo” Radley’s.
Further on, chapter 30 makes another reference to the mockingbird. The mockingbird is attached to the one and same “Boo” Radley. This is because the children are attacked by Bob Ewell (Mayella’s Father), and Radley saves them. Mr. Finch wants to try Arthur for murder. Mr. Tate, the sheriff, is adamant, that he will not have “Boo” put under the spotlight – Dragging Radley, with his shy ways, into the limelight, would be a sin, because he has done Atticus and the town, a great service in killing Bob Ewell. If it were any other man, it would be different. But Radley is as innocent as a child, having been locked in a house for his whole life. Scout comments that, “it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?” linking the legend to Radley, and his great deed.
From these arguments we can see that if for once, as a culture, we were to look past our own prejudices, we wouldn’t have so many problems. You need only look as far as current affairs, to realise this point. In conclusion, we can see that this ideology of mockingbirds could easily be applied to our own lives.
08-05-2004, 01:55 AM
I read it last year in english (freshman in high school) It was ok. I didn't hate it, but I also didn't love it uber much.
08-06-2004, 08:12 PM
I remember reading that back in the day so to speak. I guess they make everyone read this one in high school. I thought it was a great novel and was a good comentary racial relations in mid 20th century America. It is definatly one of the best books to come from the United States.
Yami no Kitsune
08-07-2004, 08:11 AM
I remember reading that in 3rd year (I have no clue what grade that's meant to be). I quite enjoyed the book, but I don't think I'll ever re-read it. ^^
08-07-2004, 07:17 PM
This book was based in my home state. ^^' Wonderful story.
Broken Angel Tima
08-07-2004, 08:27 PM
Wow I did that book for GCSE ^__^
Our teacher was insane and loved his Southern accent so we spent a lot of time reading the parts.. I had to be Mayella Ewell during the trial. o.o I got weird looks for being the only other person to use a Southern American accent (not to mention the random emotional outbursts got some looks).
08-09-2004, 08:28 PM
I have multiple reports on symbolism in this novel. maybe I'll post one when I go home
oh and the movie is excellent if you haven't watched it.
08-09-2004, 09:21 PM
I've seen the movie. Gregory Peck... *swoon*... He rocks. XD
08-09-2004, 11:41 PM
Ah. I found my Report. or at least a version of it.
Professor Judy Rivera-van Schagen
27 October 2001
Symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird
Symbols are all around us in everyday life. Symbols take many forms. They can be animals, objects, or simply an idea. All play an important role that can be easily overlooked. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird contains many symbols. The mockingbird is the most important and most obvious symbol in this novel. It is said throughout the novel that a mockingbird is simply a songbird which doesn't do a thing but make music. This symbol stands out so strongly that it can make it difficult to find the other key symbols. The key symbols discussed in this paper include the mockingbird, the snowman, the mad dog, and the broken arms.
When Scout and Jem were given their air rifles, Atticus told them it was a sin to kill a mockingbird. Amazingly enough Atticus himself is one of the people portrayed as a mockingbird. Only once in the course of the book does he willingly hurt anyone, and Scout tells us that “ ‘ […] it gave him no pleasure to do so’ ”(188). The reader is constantly reminded of his courtesy to others, especially when he helps a little two-year-old black girl down the steps of Helen Robinson’s house. He attempts to give aid to the town by helping them to see the ugliness of prejudice, not only in the trial of Tom Robinson but also in their everyday lives. He also takes time to tip his hat to the ladies that pass by him. He shares wisdom and ideas with Scout and Jem as they grow up. He seems to be, in every way, the perfect father and gentleman. He is never rude, even when it is expected of him. Even when he looses the trial, he simply resigns to the fact that a loss was inevitable, and instead focuses on the positive side of things: that they have a decent chance for an appeal. When he discovers that Tom Robbinson has died, he drives over to his wife's home to tell her the news himself and see if she needs any help. As Adam Smykowski says in his essay, "Symbolism in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird", "Throughout the novel, Atticus Finch personifies justice, and acts rationally as the voice of reason" (np). In spite of all these characteristics, the town criticizes and condemns Atticus because he does the right thing and defends Tom Robinson, another mockingbird.
Tom Robinson, the black man Atticus defends, can also be compared to a mockingbird. He hurts no one, and in fact is convicted because of his desire to help others. Scout herself reveals that “he seemed to be a respectable Negro” (192). He says that he helped Mayella Ewell for no money at all. Reverend Sykes says that Tom had aways been a faithful member of First Purchase African M.E. Church. He had always set aside time to give to the Lord each Sunday. He also gave time to his wife and family. Tom, however, was more like a mockingbird with a broken wing. Not only did he have a crippled arm but also he was black. He was convicted for a crime that he did not commit solely because he was black and he had (in the mind of the town) the audacity to feel sorry for a poor white girl. As Dawn Sava says in the Cliffs' Notes on the book, "A Negro is not allowed in the South to ever feel sorry for a white woman no matter how pathetic she may be" (37). Very seldom in this book is anything declared a sin, yet it is said in the book that it is a sin to kill mockingbirds and a sin to kill cripples. Also, Mr. Underwood “ […] likened Tom’s death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children […]” (241). The only songbird mentioned in the book is a mockingbird. It is because of Tom’s trial that Scout and Jem are almost killed by Bob Ewell but are saved by another mockingbird, Boo Radley.
Boo Radley, the town haunt and the butt of Jem, Scout and Dill’s jokes, is a third symbolic mockingbird. The town has built up numerous rumors about this man who had not been seen out of the house in twenty-five years. He hasn’t harmed anyone and made many efforts to make friends with Scout and Jem. Among these are his leaving items as gifts in the knothole in a tree in his front yard and wrapping the blanket around Scout when Miss Maudie’s house burned down. He had watched the children for some time. His observation of the children becomes apparent because of the intricate detail carved into the soap dolls that he leaves in the knothole which are nearly perfect sculptures of Jem and Scout. He helps them at the climax of the book when he prevents Jem and Scout’s death and is forced to kill Bob Ewell. He gives them their lives. After this Scout realizes that taking Boo, with his shy ways, to court would be “ ‘ […] sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird […]’ ” (276). Atticus, Tom, and Boo are accurately described as mockingbirds. All they do is “ ‘ […] sing their heart out for us’ ”(90) as Miss Maudie said.
Another important symbol in To Kill a Mockingbird is the snowman that Jem made. When it snowed, there was not enough snow to make a proper snowman, so Jem improvised and made a large form out of mud in the shape of a snowman. He covered the mud with snow until it looked like it was made entirely of snow. As they worked on the snowman, the children's ideas of who it is looked like changed three times. When they were first putting it together Scout said “ ‘ […] Jem, I ain't ever heard of a nigger snowman’ ” (66). After they begin to cover it with snow, Scout then says it looks like Miss Stephanie Crawford. When they finish their artwork, they decided that the snowman was the spitting image of Mr. Avery. However, when Atticus returns home, he insists that they alter the snowman so that is it is no longer a carcature of their neighbor. The changing of the snowman represents the social structure of the town. The snowman starts as the base of the town and the least respected group of people: the black people. The snowman slowly becomes a white woman, not nearly as low on the social ladder as the black community, but definitely not as high as the white men. Finally the snowman becomes a white male. The snowman, with its muddy interior also represents the town's prejudice. On the outside the town looks like a lovely, peaceful place to live, full of good christian people with high moral values. However, once the reader looks past the white exterior, the town has an ugly black prejudice underneath. It could be interpreted to mean that Jem is trying to cure the prejudice of the town. It is also symbolic that the snow they used came from Atticus and Miss Maudie's yards. They are two of only a few white people that are willing to speak favorably of Tom Robinson. They do not allow prejudice to conflict with their judgement. When Miss Maudie's house burns down the heat from the fire represents the burning anger of the community against a black man who would dare to "feel sorry" for a white girl. When the snowman melts in the heat of the fire, it melts away the snow, revealing the muddy interior, symbolizing the the way that the prejudice of the town was revealed during Tom's trial.
Another important symbol is the rabid dog named Tim Johnson. Tim Johnson is a menace to the town and to Scout and Jem, much like Bob Ewell. The dog is out of its mind just as Bob Ewell is half drunk when he attacks the children. It can also be said that both of them are "destroyed" by Atticus. Atticus shoots Tim Johnson as well as ruining the small amount of trust the town has in Bob Ewell. He kills Tim Johnson for the good of the town and he ruins any shred of credibility Bob Ewell had in order to show the town the ugliness of their prejudice. In fact, Scout makes this observation herself at the trial when she makes the statement, “ ‘ […] it was like watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a rifle to his shoulder and pull the trigger, but watching all the time knowing that the gun was empty’ ” (211). This statement likens Tim Johnson to the prejudice in the town. Although Atticus was able to kill the rabid dog and free the town of that evil, he was unable to rid the town of the evil of prejudice.
A fourth symbol in To Kill A Mockingbird is that of the broken arms. Tom Robinson's broken arm represents the crippling effect that prejudice against blacks has on southern society. When he trys to take the oath at court, he has to lift his crippled left arm with his right one to place it on the Bible and even then, it slides off. The reader learns the cause of his crippled arm is that when he was younger his arm was injured in a cotton gin.His injury represents the attempt by black people to be good people and how they are constantly being thwarted by the white southerner's prejudiced attitudes. Jem's broken arm at the end of the book symbolizes the brokenness that prejudce has caused white society in Maycomb County. Jem's arm is broken by a white man in the black of night because of his dad's support of a black man. This illustrates that prejudice against blacks can ultimately lead to injury of innocent parties. Also Boo's killing of Bob Ewell, is a result of the town's prejudice. If the jury had truly given Tom a fair trial, neither of these events would have occurred. Jem's broken arm also represents the broken trust between the law and the citizens of Maycomb county.
Harper Lee, in her book To Kill a Mockingbird, powerfully illustrates the injustice of prejudice by using the mockingbird, the snowman, the rabid dog, and the broken arms as symbols. Symbols, small and unimportant at the first glance, can come to mean much more. The symbols in this book help to illustrate completely the true evil of prejudice and the irrational judgements it can cause rational appearing men and women to make.
Man, I thought that paper was a real bear when I wrote it. Now I write longer posts than that on these boards. Meesh ^^;
Oh yeah, one of those books everyone seems to have done at school, myself included. I think I read the book in 2nd or 3rd year English. It was one of those stories that fustrates me as it deals with issues that really wind me up, especially when I had experienced slightly similar issues myself at the time.
Still was a very good book and I think it's wasted on most of the age group who seem to read it these days.
08-17-2004, 09:54 PM
One of the few movies that I thought was better than the book. Gregory Peck makes me swoon, and Boo Radley was always my favorite character.
08-25-2004, 10:53 PM
Okay dont kill me for this, but i hated the book, and thought the movie sucked even worse. That's just my opinion however.
08-26-2004, 01:02 PM
Okay dont kill me for this, but i hated the book, and thought the movie sucked even worse. That's just my opinion however.
but not for this.
For leaving the cheeto crumbs on the couch.
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