To Kill a Mockingbird

1 January 2017

According to many dictionaries, symbolism is “the practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships”. In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, the mockingbird referred to in the title is a prominent symbol throughout; the snowman building in the winter and Atticus Finch are other examples of symbolism.

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Some symbols are easily seen, but some require a certain approach and a little digging to understand. The snowman, the fire in Miss Maudie Atkinson’s house, and the mockingbird are all examples of symbolism. The snowman that Jem and Scout make in front of Miss Maudie Atkinson’s house one winter is an example of symbolism. There is not enough snow for the snowman, so Jem uses dirt for the foundation and then covers it with the snow that they have on the ground.

The snowman is symbolic in that Jem is trying to cover up the black ‘man’ and showing that he is the same as the white man, just with a different colour. ‘‘‘Jem I ain’t ever heard of a n***** snowman’, I said. ” “He won’t be black long’, he grunted. ”’ (Lee, p. 89) This symbol takes a certain outlook to understand, much like the main protagonist of the novel Atticus Finch. Atticus Finch is a great example of symbolism as he is seen as a hero when he kills the rabid dog. Atticus is a father in that he shows love and guidance to his children.

He is also the only lawyer in Maycomb that would represent a black man. Atticus always tells his children that shooting a mockingbird is a sin because they do not do any harm “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… ” (Lee, p. 117) This statement has more significance to the book than what is understood primarily.

The mockingbird shows symbolism because ‘killing a mockingbird is a sin’. In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch says to his children “As you grow older, you will see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash. ” (Lee, p. 295) That statement is similar to what he says to his kids about killing a mockingbird.

The mockingbird symbolizes discriminated black people. They are innocent and would almost never harm anyone just like the mockingbird. Boo Radley is also innocent and would never harm anyone therefore the mockingbird also symbolizes him. Boo never comes out because he does not want to face the prejudice and corruption of the county and to his knowledge, the rest of the world as Jem said “I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in his house all this time . . it’s because he wants to stay inside. ” (Lee, p. 304)

With all of these examples of symbolism in the novel, one cannot help but think that there is more to it than originally understood. In general symbolism reveals the prejudice, the fears and all of the dishonest things they citizens of Maycomb do. It also reveals an attempt to get rid of these feelings in Maycomb by a community hero, Atticus Finch, and his children who have a strong desire to follow in his footsteps.

Underneath another event in the novel the snowman has significant symbolism along with the constant referrals to the title and main reference, the sin of killing a mockingbird. Symbolism makes this novel so very appropriate, essentially what it is about. Without having any type of symbolism, the novel would not be nearly as complete and educational, as many readers love about it.

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