How effective is Harper Lee's title of To Kill a Mockingbird?

How effective is Harper Lee's title of To Kill a Mockingbird?

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How effective is Harper Lee's title of To Kill a Mockingbird?

'" Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember
it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do
something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.

"Your father's right," she said. "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."' (p. 96)

From the above quote we learn that a mockingbird gives only pleasure
to people. It does not harm anyone, or destroy people's gardens, like
other birds might do. The book can be said to contain 'human
mockingbirds' who, each in their own way, are persecuted or treated
badly through no fault of their own.

Probably the two main and most obvious mockingbirds in the novel are
Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. These two characters very much contrast
each other, but the way they are treated by other persons in the book
gives them a mutual bond. Both of these characters had to pay for
their actions with their lives - Boo Radley being deprived of
friendship and the outside world by his own family, and Tom Radley
being convicted of a crime he did not commit, which ultimately lead to
his death.

Boo Radley, otherwise known as Arthur Radley, is described by Jem as a
monster-type figure: "Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging
from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could
catch, that's why his hands were blood-stained - if you ate an animal
raw, you could never wash the blood off. There was a long jagged scar
that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten;
his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time." (p.19)

We know that this is not what Boo Radley really looks like, and Jem is
giving this description to Scout so as to tease her. Being as young as
she is, she believes this portrayal of Boo. However, though Jem is
only having a laugh, this shows us what sort of image of Boo the
children grew up with. The title could be connected with this because
the children are mocking Boo's life and making fun of it.

I also think that the following words from Jem are important: '" I
think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in

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"How effective is Harper Lee's title of To Kill a Mockingbird?." 26 Feb 2020

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the house all this time … its because he wants to stay inside."' This
could also explain why Boo stayed in his house all the time and show
how Boo became one of the outsiders and was still a victim of the
prejudice, as he was different. He didn't want to see the injustice
and unfairness happening all around him.

Tom Robinson is also a major mockingbird. When Mayella Ewell accuses
him of raping her, he is put on trial and found guilty. This is a
wrongful decision on behalf of the jury as there is sufficient
evidence to suggest it was actually Bob Ewell, Mayella's father, who
raped her and not Tom; the fact that Tom's arm was useless and could
not be used in a fight, the fact that Bob Ewell was ambidextrous and
therefore could lash out at her, among other evidence.

Tom is prejudiced against because he is black, and black is seen here
as being the inferior race. Towards the end of the book, the events of
the trial become too much for Tom, and he tries to escape from prison.
However, he is shot and dies. It is because of discrimination that Tom
Robinson is shot. Had it been a white man accused of assaulting
Mayella, he would have been let off with a much lesser punishment.

I can see four main links between the characters of Boo Radley and Tom
Robinson - both show kindness to others in the book. Boo to the
children by giving them presents, and eventually by saving their
lives. Tom shows kindness to Mayella by being her only friend and
helping her. Both the characters are innocent - Boo of the evil
persona he has been presented with, and Tom of the crime against
Mayella. The two are both victims of prejudice, and finally both are
imprisoned and potentially vulnerable: Boo is imprisoned by his father
who wants to punish him a restrict him to stay in the house and Tom is
imprisoned and killed as a result of prejudice.

There are also other mockingbirds in the novel that I believe to be
not as important as Tom and Boo. One of these is Mayella Ewell.
Although she was partly responsible for the death of Tom Robinson, we
have to take into consideration the circumstances that lead to this.
We know that she has no mother, and is most probably abused by her
father. We know that she has no friends - [Atticus says] '"Who are
your friends?" The witness frowned as if puzzled. "Friends?…You makin'
fun o' me agin, Mr Finch?"' This suggests to us that Mayella does not
have anyone to talk to or to have fun with. I think this is why she
befriended Tom, because she knew he would be nice to her. She
obviously has had a traumatic life and I think this could be used as
evidence enough to suggest she is also a type of mockingbird.

Other characters I think could be seen as minor mockingbirds are
Dolphus Raymond and his family. He is seen as an outcast because he
married a black woman, and his children because they do not fit in
with neither the blacks nor the whites; the whites won't have anything
to do with them because they (the children) are not properly white,
nor will the blacks because they are not properly black. Dolphus
therefore pretends to be hooked on drink so as to make people think he
'won't change his ways'. This is yet another way as to how people in
the book can't accept others' way of life.

In conclusion, I think the title of the book, To Kill a Mockingbird,
is very effective because it makes us think of all the 'sins' in the
book, i.e. the prejudice characters receive, the way they are treated
by others. Harper Lee has an interesting way of communicating to us
the torments through which people go through, from the way Tom
Robinson is wrongly convicted, to the discrimination Dolphus Raymond
receives because of his way of life.
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