Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

Length: 1325 words (3.8 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
In the last century, there have certainly been many "greats" - novels, books and stories

that impress, amaze and make one think. Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird", however, is

unique among all these poignant pieces of literature in that the novel solely develops Lee's idea,

brought out by Atticus in the novel, to "...shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but

remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" (90). This phrase is expounded by the character Miss

Maudie when she says "...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. :(90) In the bird kingdom, the bluejay is

considered as the "bully", as they are very loud, agressive and territorial; this reminds one of Bob

Ewell. The phrase of "killing a mockingbird" represents the iniquity to vitiate something good and

relatively unmarred, as mockingbirds do nothing but sing beautiful songs; they are innocent and

harmless. This motif can also be interpreted as a symbol of imitation, or "mocking" - the

mockingbird is known for its ersatz of other birds' songs. This mockingbird motif, the foremost

theme, is exemplified by the actions and words of three characters in "To Kill A Mockingbird" -

Arthur (Boo) Radley, Tom Robinson and Jean-Louise (Scout) Finch.

It is obvious and simple to understand why one of the "mockingbirds" in Lee's novel is
Tom Robinson, as he is not only a cripple, “His left arm was fully twelve inches shorter than his
right, and hung dead at his side. It ended in a small shriveled hand, and from as far away as the
balcony I could see that it was no use to him.” (186), but innocent, kind and softhearted as well.
This is recognized when he helps out Mayella Ewell, in exchange for nothing. "...'did all this for not
one penny?' 'Yes, suh.' " (197) He is the victim of not only racial prejudice, but the system of
segregation the town of Maycomb lived in. Even when he was sentenced, the jurors had no
quarrel with him - they just felt that to take the word of a black man over two whites' would
jeapordize that system of segregation that they lived by. Tom as a symbol is further continued by

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird." 123HelpMe.com. 16 Aug 2018

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Hope in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Essay

- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is extensively a story of hope. Hope is to wish for something with expectation of its fulfilment and to have confidence; trust. This is shown through the themes, issues and the characters in the novel. Atticus represents hope, he is optimist. He is from the higher class and defends the lower class and still has the anticipation to win. The Finch family has hope as Atticus has taught his children to be accepting and have open-minds. Racism and prejudice, give people the hope for change....   [tags: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee]

Research Papers
925 words (2.6 pages)

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird Essay

- In To Kill a Mockingbird, we are told the story of the lives of the Finch family through the eyes of one Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. She is around the age of eight years old, so she is very young. Essentially, she has always wanted to go to school, but when she gets there, she finds that her education level surpasses that of the first grade. Her father forces her to stay in school. That summer she meets a peculiar person who calls himself Dill, although his name is Charles Baker Harris. Scout and her brother, Jem, quickly befriend him....   [tags: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee]

Free Essays
862 words (2.5 pages)

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird Essay

- Would you rather read a boring novel that contains static characters or would you want to read one that takes you on a journey through a dynamic character's life. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Scout's personality greatly changes as she matures and learns more about life. This novel takes place in the 1930's in a typical southern society. Once Atticus chooses to defend Tom Robinson, a black man, Scout faces many challenges and she discovers numerous facts about life. Throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird Scout grows up and learns that one should not be prejudiced toward others, the true meaning of courage, and that it is wrong to harm the innocent and kind....   [tags: Harper Lee Kill Mockingbird]

Free Essays
1137 words (3.2 pages)

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird Essay

- Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is a highly regarded work of American fiction. The story of the novel teaches us many lessons that should last any reader for a lifetime. The messages that Harper Lee relays to the reader are exemplified throughout the book using various methods. One of the most important and significant methods was the use of symbols such as the mockingbird image. Another important method was showing the view through a growing child's (Scout Finch) mind, eyes, ears, and mouth....   [tags: Harper Lee Kill Mockingbird Essays]

Free Essays
1401 words (4 pages)

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird Essay

- Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird "To Kill a Mocking Bird" by Harper Lee was published in 1960 and was adapted into a play by Christopher Sergal and published in 1980. It tells the story of a court case when a black man gets accused of raping a white woman. The black man, Tom Robinson is defended by the a lawyer called Atticus Finch. Atticus is one of the few people in Maycome who have a bit of money an can read and write very well. The inevitable outcome of the case was that the Black man was sentenced to death....   [tags: Harper Lee Kill Mockingbird Essays]

Research Papers
2334 words (6.7 pages)

Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird Essay example

- Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird In the novel by Harper Lee named, To Kill a Mockingbird, there is one main tragic event that occurs. The feelings and expressions dealt with in the novel are seen through the eyes of the main character, named Scout. In the novel Tom Robinson is a black male accused of rape in Maycomb County. During the same time period as the novel there were many historical events that were almost identical in setting and conclusion. There were many things that happened leading up to the court case that foreshadowed Tom Robinson’s inability to be found innocent of the charges....   [tags: Harper Lee Kill Mockingbird Racism Essays]

Research Papers
1376 words (3.9 pages)

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird Essay

- Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird Courage is the quality of mind that enables one to face danger with confidence, resolution, and gain a firm control of oneself. Many of the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird showed courage in their own way. Courage can come in many different forms: physical, mental, emotional and moral. Courage is not the only main theme displayed in To Kill a Mockingbird; prejudice and education are also very important themes exhibited throughout the progression of the novel....   [tags: Kill Mockingbird Harper Lee Essays Courage]

Research Papers
1052 words (3 pages)

Analysis of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Essay

- Analysis of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is a story of national magnitude that contains complex characters. Harper Lee deals with the emotions and spirits of the characters insightfully. A few of these characters display courage at one point or another in the story. These flashes of courage come during turbulent times of the story, and often led to success. Atticus Finch displayed courage on numerous occasions. Without his wife he had to raise Jem and Scout alone for most of their lives....   [tags: To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee Essays]

Research Papers
1327 words (3.8 pages)

Essay on Prejudice in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

- Prejudice in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was written by Harper Lee in 1960. Nelle Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama, a city of about 7,000 people. She studied law at the University of Alabama and one year at Oxford University. After giving up working as a clerk for an airline she moved into a cold-water apartment in New York to concentrate on writing. She first handed this book to a publisher in 1957 but it was rejected so she took two further years to rework it before it was published as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in 1960....   [tags: Harper Lee Kill Mockingbird Essays]

Research Papers
6279 words (17.9 pages)

Essay about Cultures in Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird

- ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is a brilliantly written novel by Harper Lee. The novel is set in Alabama, USA, in the 1930’s and tells the story of a lawyer who defends a wrongly accused black man while trying to raise his two children, Scout and Jem, as they go through childhood and adolescence, life’s most active learning stages. The book is written through the eyes of Atticus’ naïve young daughter, Scout, and southern ways enhance the plot of the story to give it a realistic and historical perspective....   [tags: Harper Lee Kill Mockingbird Essays]

Free Essays
4930 words (14.1 pages)

Mr. Underwood, when he writes after Tom's death, trying to escape from his captivity, that he
- 2

"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 or children." (241) This correllation is
evident, as both mockingbirds and Tom, a crippled man, are completely defenceless before their
hunters and persecutors.

Another illustration of the mockingbird symbol in "To Kill A Mockingbird" is the young 5-

year-old character and narrator of the novel, Jean Louise, or "Scout" Finch. The name "Finch"

represents another small bird, and indicates that Scout is particularly vincible in the racially

prejudiced world she grew up in, Maycomb, a place that often treats the innocence of childhood

harshly. Scout experiences her first contact with evil when her father, Atticus Finch, becomes the

lawyer for Tom Robinson, and she has to bear the brunt of racial prejudice from teachers,

'friends', relatives and other citizens of Maycomb. " "I guess it's not your fault if Uncle Atticus is a

nigger-lover besides, but i'm here to tell you it certainly does mortify the rest of the family-" " (83).

Because of this exposure, Scout's develpment is ruled by the question of how she will emerge

from it - with her conscience and state of mind intact or with it being spoiled and destroyed like the

characters Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. Even thought Scout remains a child throughout the

entire book, her perspective on life in general develops from that of a naive and innocent child into

a near-adult. This is displayed when Scout seems to understand a concept that even some adults

don't - " 'Yes sir, I understand," I reassured him. "Mr Tate was right." ..."Well, it'd sort of be like

shootin' a mockingbird, wouldnt it?" " (276) This is partly due to Atticus' wisdom, as through him,

Scout learns that even thought mankind will always have the ability to perform much evil, it also

has the same capacity to do the opposite. " "Atticus, he was real nice..." His hands were under my

chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me. "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see

them." " (281). Scout's realization and development into the idea that evil can often be alleviated

with a prospect of understanding and empathy indicates the climax and conclusion of the novel,

and creates the feeling that whatever evil Scout confronts, she will be ready and will withhold her

conscience without becoming biased or jaded herself.

The final portrayal of the mockingbird motif is Arthur Radley, or "Boo" Radley as he is

- 3

referred to among the children of Maycomb. Boo is generally regarded by the town's citizens as

an evil and mysterious character that nobody knows much about, and in a way, because of this

common inquisitiveness about who he really is, he is the subject of many stories and tales about

him. These included inveracities such as "Radley pecans will kill you. A baseball hit into the

Radley yard was a lost ball and no questions asked." (9). However, these are refuted when Scout

responds " 'Yes sir, I understand," I reassured him. "Mr Tate was right." ..."Well, it'd sort of be like

shootin' a mockingbird, wouldnt it?" " (276) to Atticus' query of if she understood why Heck Tate

decided not to arrest Boo Radley, instead adducing the murder of Bob Ewell as a hapless

contretemps. Boo Radley symbolifies the mockingbirds theme in a second way in that

mockingbirds are known as "imitators" - their songs copy, or imitate, other birds' songs, therefore

making themsleves visible through other birds. Likewise, Boo Radley is only visible through what

the citizens of Maycomb have said about him. This artificial visage, therefore, represents his

character until near the end of the book. He was supposed to have stabbed his father in the leg

with scissors, peeped through windows at night, and was supposed to be "six-and-a-half feet tall,

dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch.. his hands were bloodstained; what teeth he

had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time." (13). In the final

pages of the novel, however, we find out that none of these fabrications are true - the stories tell

us more about the people telling them rather than Boo Radley himself.

The three characters of Tom Robinson, Scout Finch and Boo Radley in Harper Lee's "To

Kill A Mockingbird" represent and symbolify the mockingbird motif because of their innocence,

imitations and blameless existences. This motif stands for the wrongdoing of harming something

that is innocent and defenceless, and comes mainly from the character of Miss Maudie when she

says "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. " (90). This symbol is evident through the lives of the three

characters mentioned above, and teaches many lessons about racial prejudice, rumors and

stories, and just evil in general. For the past 70+ years, Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird" has

- 4

been read by many people, of all ages and race. Because of it's individualism and uniqueness, in

that Lee is the only author known to have developed this theme, this book will most likely remain

famous and thought-provoking in the next 70+ years as well, as well as continue as one of the

most outstanding books in the past century.
Return to 123HelpMe.com