THEMES –the fundamental and universal ideas explored in a literary work


Both Scout and Jem grow and mature throughout the novel.  They develop in the physical, emotional, and rational sense.  Different events in the novel force Scout and Jem to change or alter their perspectives on life, relationships, and the world.

Prejudice & Bigotry

The racism in Maycomb is widespread and this hatred is a strong theme throughout the novel.  Consider whether such prejudice is inherited or learned and whether there are any reasons for it.

The Individual VS. Society

This theme is developed through the conflict between Atticus Finch and the town of Maycomb.  What are other examples in the novel where there is a discrepancy between societal ideals and the principles/values of an individual?

The Perspective of Children

Scout and Jem find the world both problematic and enigmatic.  Scout is often confused or puzzled by her father’s words and this illustrates her youth and inexperience in the world.  The plot of TKAM charts the progress of Scout and Jem’s moral education shown through the relationship between Atticus and his children.

SYMBOLS –objects, characters, figures, colours used to represent abstract ideas or concepts


The mockingbird is a bird that sings sweetly and does no harm to any other creature.  The mockingbird represents the idea of innocence, and thus, to kill a mockingbird is to destroy innocence. There are a number of characters who may be considered “mockingbirds”, namely, Tom Robinson.

The Mad Dog

The mad dog is a symbol of the way in which something friendly and known can become dangerous and alien to those around it.  The community of Maycomb is portrayed as a friendly place, but the “rape” of Mayella Ewell by a black man turns many of the townspeople into unreasonable, dangerous, mad people.

Boo Radley

Boo Radley symbolizes the unknown.  The children’s concern with seeing Boo at the beginning of the novel to his appearance at the end, demonstrates Boo’s role as the symbolic movement from innocence to experience seen in Scout and Jem.  He is also an important symbol of the good that exists within people.

author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment