Harper Lee uses symbolism extensively throughout To Kill a Mockingbird,, and much of it refers to the problems of racism in the South during the early twentieth century. Harper Lee's effective use of racial symbolism and allegory can be seen by studying various examples from the book, namely the actions of the children, of the racist whites, and of Atticus Finch.
One of the more effective allegories in the novel is the building of a snowman by Jem and Scout. There was not enough snow to make a snowman entirely out of snow, so Jem made a foundation out of dirt and then covered it with what snow they had. If the snowman was made completely out of snow, Jem's action would not be so significant. Scout is very surprised when she sees the brown snowman and she exclaims: "Jem, I ain't never heard of a nigger snowman." (72), and to this Jem replies: "He won't be black long." (72). Scout's words indicate the strange nature of the snowman which is half-black, half-white. Jem, however did not find it peculiar and he "scooped up some snow and began plastering it on". Gradually Mr. Avery turned white? (73). The symbol of the snowman, like every other symbol in literature, may have various interpretations depending on the reading of the individual. In the specific case the snowman can be seen in two ways.
Firstly, this alteration from black to white can be considered as a merging of the two races into one, without any differences between them to separate them, an equality of black and white people. The change of colour (black to white) suggests the superficiality of the colour of the skin, which should not be a criterion for judging people and dividing them into categories. Atticus's...
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...r the two victims of human malice suggests the power Harper Lee sees in symbolism, which carries the message better than words. At this point she seems to agree with J.B.S. Haldane, a British Scientist, who stated: "In fact, words are well adapted for description and the arousing of emotion, but for many kinds of precise thought other symbols are much better" (Tripp). Perhaps this is the reason Harper Lee chooses to declare her rejection of prejudice and racism through the use of symbols; because they are more effective than words.
Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird. 1960. New York: Warner Books, 1982.
Tripp, Rhoda Thomas. The International Thesaurus of Quotations. New York: Harper and Row, 1990.
"To Kill a Mockingbird." Sparknotes LLC. 2003. Barnes & Noble Learning Network. 2 Nov. 2003
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