Mockingbirds in 'To Kill a Mockingbird': Critical Essay

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Symbolic Mockingbirds

Most people go about life thinking they understand everyone from what they hear or what they see. In reality, this is untrue and Scout learns that in Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. Lee tells the story of a black man falsely accused of rape being defended by a white man from a child’s perspective in the deep south. Scout, a young girl at the time, watches her father unsuccessfully defend Tom Robinson while realizing how harsh the world can be. She also learns people can be easily misunderstood. In the novel, Atticus Finch, Tom Robinson, and Boo Radley are all metaphorically portrayed as mockingbirds because, like mockingbirds, they are hated, they are all misunderstood and they are sometimes thought to do harm, and none of them ever hurt anyone.

Lee portrays Atticus as an overall morally correct man. He has spent his life as a lawyer trying to do good. He has also raised his children with no sense of racism. Even though Atticus was appointed by Judge Taylor to defend Tom Robinson he still did his best to defend Tom. Any other lawyer would’ve dismissed the case and not even bothered to prove Tom innocent. Tom had been convicted but Atticus did prove him not guilty which made some angry, like Bob Ewell for example. Bob had been the one who reported the alleged raping of his daughter Mayella. Before Aunt Alexandra could pull the kids into the house Scout heard the neighbors saying “This morning Mr. Bob Ewell stopped Atticus on the post office corner, spat in his face, and told him he’d get him if it took the rest of his life,” (Lee 290). Bob hated Atticus for making him look like a fool and a liar in court. Atticus persisted much like a mockingbird in this situation. Mockingbirds have always been harmless animals but people dislike them due to the sounds they make. Although it is supposed to be beautiful many could find it annoying. Atticus tried his best to be beneficial to Tom by helping him but ended up being hated by the Ewells and others.

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Tom Robinson had been falsely accused of raping Mayella Ewell. Back in the 1930’s when this book took place black men had little to no credibility in the South. As soon as Bob accused Tom of rape that became the end of Tom. The words of a white man always prevailed over those of a black man. During Mayella’s testimony of the trial she states “So he comes in the yard and I went in the house to get him a nickel and I turned around a ‘fore I knew it he was on me,” (Lee 241). She claimed Tom threw himself onto her. Tom’s statement blatantly contradicts hers. He stated “She reached up and kissed me ‘side of the face. She says she never kissed a grown man before an’ she might as well kiss a n*****. She says what her Papa do to her don’t count,” (Lee 260). Tom insinuated Bob had been the one who raped and beat Mayella. Atticus backed this by proving Bob was left-handed and Tom’s left hand was disabled. It has always been a sin to kill a mockingbird because they are harmless creatures. Despite the fact they prevail harmlessly some believe they have done harm, like Tom. Tom never did harm but had been thought to do so.

Lee tells the readers through Scout's point of view the horrors of the Radley House and Boo Radley. Lee portrays Boo as a scary man who hasn’t been seen in years. He has been thought to commit all the crimes that have happened in Maycomb. Scout says on page 376 “‘An’ they chased him ‘n’ never could catch him ‘cause they didn’t know what he looked like, an’ Atticus, when they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done any of those things… Atticus, he was real nice…” (Lee 376). At the end of the book after Scout took Boo home she stood on his porch and got a glimpse of life through his eyes. She learned how Boo never committed any of the crimes the town believed he did. Similarly to mockingbirds Boo had been innocent the whole time.

Lee successfully portrayed Atticus, Tom, and Boo as mockingbirds in her book. They all suffered unnecessarily at some point in the book like mockingbirds do sometime in their lives. Unfortunately, the LGBT community members have been struggling to find peace. Likewise, mockingbirds never do any harm but have been thought to so they become hated. Furthermore, they exist as different from the normal, like mockingbirds. As long as people keep being themselves and not doing harm everyone should be accepted.

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Mockingbirds in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: Critical Essay. (2023, September 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
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