Symbolism in "To Kill a Mockingbird" by harper Lee

Essay by Anonymous UserCollege, Undergraduate October 1996

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'I'd rather you shoot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you'll go

after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want , if you can hit 'em, but

remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.' This is what Atticus Finch

tells his children after they are given air-rifles for Christmas. Uniquely,

the title of the classic novel by Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird, was

taken from this passage. At first glance, one may wonder why Harper Lee

decided to name her book after what seems to be a rather insignificant

excerpt. After careful study, however, one begins to see that this is just

another example of symbolism in the novel. Harper Lee uses symbolism rather

extensively throughout this story, 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 can be seen by studying various examples

from the book.

This includes the actions of the children, the racist

whites, and the actions of Atticus Finch.

The actions of the children in this novel certainly do have their share of

symbolism. For instance, the building of a snowman by Jem and Scout one

winter is very symbolic. 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. One could interpret this in two

different ways. First of all, the creation of the snowman by Jem can be

seen as being symbolic of Jem trying to cover up the black man and showing

that he is the same as the white man, that all human beings are virtually

the same. Approval of these views is shown by Atticus when he...