Why Did Harper Lee Name It 'To Kill a Mockingbird': Essay

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In life, many encounter signs and symbols which have deeper meanings that may be evident or sometimes, not clear. According to the Oxford Dictionary, symbols are things conventionally regarded as typifying or representing something. Symbols are not only an important part of life but a significant representation of appearance versus reality. In Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, the theme of symbolism is explored by the author to encourage readers to read between the lines and to create meaning and emotion in the story. The idea of a Mockingbird, Mrs.Dubose’s white camellias, and Jem’s stitched pants are all symbols that are shown in To Kill a Mockingbird. These items symbolize racism and discrimination in the town of Maycomb, which impacts other characters’ thought processes by the way they react and talk about people of color.

Generally, without knowledge of this book, many may think that the mockingbird spoken of in the title, refers to the actual bird; but in reality, it does not. In this story of innocence destroyed by evil, the “mockingbird” represents innocence which can be seen in Tom Robinson. This man is considered the “mockingbird” of the story due to the fact that he does not harm anyone, but only gives pleasure and does good for and to others. This is evident in his actions towards Mayella Ewell, who took advantage of his benevolence and used it against him. Arthur “Boo” Radley is also seen as a mockingbird because he is a sweet, kind, and innocent man that is misjudged by society and interpreted as a monster by some. Lee uses the quote “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens and 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.” to prove, illustrate, and teach the reason why it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. It is believed that the symbol of a mockingbird, in the case of Tom Robinson, was “assassinated”. This is so because, despite all the benevolence of Tom, he was still killed and misjudged when all he did was do good which is unfortunately what happens in the “real” world.

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In chapters 9-11, it is stated that Mrs.Dubose, a morphine addict, grew white camellias in her garden. White camellias mean several things. They can mean purity, love between a mother and child, or can be used at a funeral at a time of mourning. On the contrary, Dubose’s camellias are a symbol of racism in Maycomb, showing the supreme race in the county and Mrs.Dubose’s humanity. The supreme race in the town of Maycomb is “white folks”. These white folks are deemed superior by the color of their skin and not by their actions, achievement, or uprightness. This concept leads to the theme of racism which is the overall main focus of the book. The “colored folks” are treated unjustly which can be seen in the case of Tom Robinson’s trial. Even though there was plenty of evidence exonerating Tom from falsely accusing men of rape, the system was, is, and will always be in favor of the white man no matter how much society claims that the rule of law (laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards), is evident. “ As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something, and don’t you forget it… Whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”. This quote was made by Atticus Finch, a white man of Maycomb, goes to show that racism is a “fact of life”

At one point in the story, Jem had indirect contact with Boo Radley. Whilst the children were playing tricks on Boo, Jem got his pants stuck and there was a rip in them. When Jem returned to retrieve his pants, he had seen that they were stitched up by Boo. As previously mentioned, Boo is misjudged by society and is interpreted as a monster by some, when in reality, he is just a kind-hearted character which can be seen in what he does for Jem. It is believed that Jem’s stitched-up pants represent/symbolizes Boo’s kindness. Boo tries to show and prove to the kids, especially Jem, that they have nothing to fear and that he is always looking out for them. This is not the only time Boo has looked out for the kids; he also looked out for Scout when he placed a blanket over Scout’s shoulders when Miss Maudie’s house catches fire. He does this act of kindness because he feels protective of her. On many occasions, Boo has always looked out for and has been protective of them despite all the misjudgments of the people in the town of Maycomb. “People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”. Lee uses this quote to teach the lesson that most people only seek the bad in people but if people were to seek the good in people, they would find it. Overall, Boo proved himself over and over that he has not and will not conform himself to the negative thoughts of the people of Maycomb towards him.

In conclusion, symbolism is used to encourage readers to read between the lines and to create meaning and emotion in the story being told. This not only opens the gate to the use of imagination but is a clear representation of appearance versus reality, meaning that things are not always as they seem. The idea of a mockingbird, Mrs.Dubose’s white camellias, and Jem’s stitched-up pants are all proof that things are not always as they seem, but indeed have deeper meanings behind them. Of course, not all people have the gift of reading between the lines and searching for a deeper meaning, but it is encouraged to do so because symbolism is no mere idle fancy or corrupt regeneration: it is inherent in the very texture of human life.

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Why Did Harper Lee Name It ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: Essay. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/why-did-harper-lee-name-it-to-kill-a-mockingbird-essay/
“Why Did Harper Lee Name It ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: Essay.” Edubirdie, 21 Apr. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/why-did-harper-lee-name-it-to-kill-a-mockingbird-essay/
Why Did Harper Lee Name It ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/why-did-harper-lee-name-it-to-kill-a-mockingbird-essay/> [Accessed 18 Apr. 2024].
Why Did Harper Lee Name It ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Apr 21 [cited 2024 Apr 18]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/why-did-harper-lee-name-it-to-kill-a-mockingbird-essay/

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