To Kill a Mockingbird: Themes & Symbols
- Prejudice and Racism
- Fear of the Unknown
- Coming of Age
- Family relationships
- The novel is set in the In the deep Southern state of Alabama in the mid 1930’s. During the early days of freedom for the African-Americans. The climate was fraught with resentment that reflected people’s resistance toward abolition of Slavery.
- Racial Prejudice
- Trial of Tom Robinson
- Wrongly accused, misjudged and ill-treated and disrespected by the people at large, including the Prosecutor who calls him ‘boy’.
- The verdict of the trial:
- The evidence produced by Atticus makes it clear that Tom is innocent, yet Tom is found “guilty”. It is based merely on the fact that Tom is black.
- Lula does not want Scout and Jem to attend the Black Church.
- Boo is not jailed with the Black prisoners. He is kept in the basement of the courthouse.
- Miss Merriweather goes on to explain the “sin and squalor” that is suffered by “those poor Mrunas” and makes herself seem most ethnically aware,
- She refers to Helen Robinson as; “That darky’s wife”
- Scout and Jem face harsh criticism from their peers and they are called ‘nigger lovers’ because Atticus chooses to defend an innocent man.
- Aunt Alexandra’s attitude toward everyone is based upon their social status.
- Ewell Family is a victim of social prejudice. Everyone assumes that they are “no good”.
- The whole Radley family suffers social prejudice because Boo hadn’t been seen for years, and people didn’t know where Mrs. Radley was.
Fear of the Unknown
- It is common human trait that we fear everything that we do not know or do not understand.
- This universal theme is portrayed through the town’s bias (Lady’s Missionary society) toward the Negros.
- Fearful rumors about Boo Radley isolated and Alienated an otherwise disturbed but gentle human being.
- The entire novel is written from the viewpoint of and innocent 7 year old. We see the world of Maycomb through the unbiased and untutored eyes of Scout Finch.
- Innocence of the mind and spirit is portrayed through the character of Boo Radley.
- Jem, Scout, Dill and Boo represent innocence
- The most important instance of the triumph of innocence over violence and hatered was shown through the scene of confrontation between Atticus and the mob in front of the Jailhouse. As Scout makes the adult see the foly of their actions through her innocent questions and actions.
Coming of age
- Coming of age comes with an inevitable end of childhood innocence. Without this experience graduation into maturity cannot truly take place.
- Jem and Scout are shown going through a tremendous amount of growing up - physically, emotionally, mentally, and morally.
- Jem and Scout learn about the real world in brushes with the outside world, such as at school.
- Boo Radley, Ms. Maudie, Ms. Dubose Ms. Crawford and the other neighbors all provide a means to learning life’s lessons to Jem and Scout.
- Tom Robinson’s trial provides insight into the unfairness, injustice and cruelty of the adult world for the children and becomes and major vehicle for the experience of ‘Coming of Age
- The concept of courage if thoroughly explored through the action of several characters.
- Atticus was truly a man of great courage. on the outside he appeared to be a pacifist. However, when he killed the rabid dog, his children gained a totally different view of him. The whole town had revealed to them the secret of their father, that he was an excellent marksman and a brave man.
- In addition Atticus had the moral and emotional courage to stand up to the whole town in order to defend a black man.
- Atticus had the courage to teach his children the values of equity and justice through his own example.
- Mrs. Dobose had the courage to give up her morphine addiction.
- Boo Radley had the courage to befriend the children despite opposition from his brother.
- Jem, Scout and Dill stood by their father in front of the jail as Atticus faced the mob.
- Finches, Ewells, Cunnighams, Robinsons,and Radleys all present different models of family relationships.
- The underlying truth that is revealed is that , an individual is shaped by the circumstances, morals and support of their family. All characters evolve through the given framework of their family circumstances. Their morality, behavior, judgment and decisions about life reflect their family background.
- Radley house
- Atticus says “It is a sin to kill a Mockingbird.”
- Later on Ms. Maudie explains the quote to Scout.
- “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, they 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. ”
- Mockingbird is a metaphor for the folly of harming innocent and vulnerable people.
- In the novel there are two characters who are explicitly likened to the bird. These are
- Tom Robinson and Boo Radley
- Other character who exemplifies the symbol of the mockingbird is…….
- Mayella Ewell
St. Rosemary Educational Institution. "To Kill a Mockingbird: Themes & Symbols." http://schoolworkhelper.net/. St. Rosemary Educational Institution, Last Update: 2014. Web. Retrieved on: Thursday 24th April 2014. http://schoolworkhelper.net/to-kill-a-mockingbird-themes-symbols/.