In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, the author demonstrates how she uses literary techniques to convey the theme to the readers. The story is about a young girl named Scout living during the Great Depression and the Jim Crow era with her brother and father. The town is a society sharply distinguished between the whites and blacks, with racism being a big part of it. Scout’s father, Atticus is hired to be an attorney for Tom Robinson, a black man wrongfully accused of raping a white woman. The women’s father, Ewell decides to take revenge on Atticus and their kids for defending Tom. While carrying out the action to hurt them, Boo Radley, a mysterious man with many rumors about being evil, shows up and saves them. To emphasize the theme of prejudice in this novel, Lee incorporates the literary techniques of diction and symbolism which allow the readers to visualize the setting.
Lee uses the essential strategy of diction in her novel to portray the previously established inclination in the society. The townspeople are known to be prejudiced by any individual who doesn't comply with their desires. Boo Radley is persecuted and rumored because he has not been seen outside his house since being locked by his father after a violent incident. Jem, Scout’s brother, while expressing the first glance of Boo Radley, says that he “dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch… his hands were bloodstained… 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” (Lee 13). This is a misled information spread in the town, as Boo is nothing like the rumors. He is rather innocent and a hero that saves Scout and Jem when attacked by Ewell. This scene shows how the whole town of Maycomb likes to judge an individual without really knowing them.
Another scene of prejudice is shown when the trial is ended, and Aunt Alexandra is having missionary tea with ladies. One of Alexandra’s friends, Mrs. Merriweather, talks about how she pitties the Mruna tribe of Africa, saying that “the poverty… the darkness… the immorality” is very cruel and that everyone should show sympathy for them (Lee 230). However, the Mruna tribe is nonexistent- it is a way Lee shows how the townspeople, especially Mrs. Merriweather, are hypocritical and pious. It is also ironic when the ladies go on and call the black people “sulky darky”, saying that they are acting rude after the trial. The townspeople are capable of showing sympathy towards the Mruna people for having a squalid and unpleasant lifestyle when they are unable to feel any sympathy for the black people living in the same town. Using diction, Lee lets the readers recognize the biased town which the characters are living in.
In addition to diction, Lee writes manipulates symbols to show the preconceived notion of the town. When Scout is talking with her neighbor, Mrs. Maudie, about mockingbirds and blue jays, she says that shooting a bluejay is not a sin but “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird… [as] they don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy” (Lee 10). The mockingbird symbolizes Boo Radley, who is an innocent man doing nothing but getting misjudged by society. Just like a mockingbird, which does not do anything but to sing, Boo is not harmful but rather the opposite. The bluejays portray the racist, prejudging townspeople who try to kill little birds such as the mockingbird, Boo. Moreover, prejudice is shown again when a rabid dog appears and Atticus shoots it. In the scene, Atticus shoots the mad dog, kills it and it “flopped over and crumpled on the sidewalk” (Lee 96). Here, the dog that Atticus shot represents the racial prejudice and racist people in the town. By shooting the dog, it symbolizes how Atticus, who is also trying to get rid of racial prejudice in the town by defending a black person, successfully gets rid of it.