Literary Analysis Essay on Symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird

Paper Type:  Literature review
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1213 Words
Date:  2022-02-11


The phrase to kill a mocking bird has a very little literal link with the plot of the story, but it has a lot of symbolic meaning to both the characters and the setting in general. The story is based on the phrase that relates to how innocent are destroyed by evil in society. Characters like Tom Robinson, Doo Radley, and Atticus Finch are portrayed to be mockingbirds. Therefore, these characters are shown to be injured by evil although they are innocents. The story is set in Maycomb at the time of the depression.

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Atticus was one of the most prominent citizens of Maycomb during the great depression. When Atticus gives his kids guns for Christmas, he advises them to not hurt mockingbirds. This becomes a metaphor for Scout Finch. As a symbol, mockingbirds do not harm. Mockingbirds are explained by Miss Maudie to be ones that make music for people to enjoy. They do not destroy people's gardens, do not make nests in cornfields, and sing their hearts for people. She explains that this is the reason why it is a sin to kill a Mockingbird. Tensions arise as Tom Robison, who is black, allegedly raped a white woman. Atticus Finch shields Robinson and states that there is no way in which the injuries that the white woman had were caused by Tom Robinson. At the jail, Atticus and Tom are almost lynched by a crowd, but they are protected by Scout. The white community questions the reasons behind Atticus' acceptance of the case while the black community is grateful for his courage. Even after defending Tom Robinson with viable evidence, Atticus still loses the case since the jury is all white. Maycomb is therefore portrayed as a racist community that favors only the white (Meyer 39). Finch practices sympathy and understanding, and he teaches his kids never to have resentment against the people in the city. Using this knowledge teaches scout that people should always see people for their good qualities and forgive them for their bad traits. Throughout the novel, Atticus is characterized by his consistency, and this symbolizes his role in guiding his children in changing their attitudes about evil and how they should react to instances of unfair treatment.

Another Mockingbird in the story is Tom Robinson. At the hands of a racist community, he is unfairly judged and is sent to jail for something he did not commit. As the story progresses, the children's attitudes towards this character are seen to shift to a more sympathetic and innocent approach slowly. He is sent to jail and later is shot for trying to escape. Tom Robison is symbolically a Mockingbird since he is unfairly treated due to his race. Even after evidence is given that there is no possible way that he could not have raped Mayella Ewell, he is still sent to jail. Tom's left arm was fatally injured in an accident years before. Atticus suggested that Bob Ewell, the father to Mayella, was the most likely suspect for the rape since he had a history of molesting his daughter. This statement is disregarded by the all-white jury, and Robison is still sent to jail. In this case, his innocence was unnoticed because Maycomb was a white-dominated town and the views of a black man were entirely decided by the whites. This character is therefore targeted by the community because of his race and not because he had committed a crime.

Boo Radley is the neighbor to the Finches. One of their most defining traits is his symbolic and literal invisibility throughout the novel. Since he is only seen at night, much of the town's superstition revolves around the fear that he is dangerous. Finch's children were seen to make strange and horrific stories about this character. This character is told to have been mistreated by his father who used to lock him up due to minor infractions. With such accounts, this character is mainly seen as a ghost rather than a real character. Boo Radley is also vividly symbolized as a mockingbird in the novel. Boo is used to explain the childish understanding of their environment and the role of people around them (Meyer 29). Furthermore, the genuine dangers that are present in the environment and how a child reacts to these aspects. Boo symbolically represents the town's past regarding poverty, slavery, and inequality. As such the revealing of this role as a Mockingbird remains at the center of his depiction of the people's role in perspectives about a person. Therefore, the people of Maycomb prefer to give past aspects less attention, like Boo.

After the case, Bob Ewell swears to get revenge on Atticus since he embarrassed him in front of the jury. After some time, Bob Ewell chooses to attack Finch's kids. Boo saves both of these children from the imminent danger that Bob posted to them. As innocent as Boo was, both Jem and Scout had very negative perceptions because of the way that Boo is presented in the town. However, as the story progresses, his traits do not change, but his brave acts change the perceptions of Jem and Scout about him from monster to hero. As they comprehend more about his character, the children develop a sense of empathy (Mills 71). At the end of the story, Scout identifies Boo as a Mockingbird. Scout informs Atticus that she then understands the reasons behind Heck Tate decided to say why Ewell Bob fell on his knife and not Boo as his killer. Therefore, this character is a Mockingbird since society's perceptions are negative towards him although he is very innocent and has no intentions of evil. Society targets him for being different.


Conclusively, the phrase to kill a mocking bird has a very little literal link with the plot of the story, but it has a lot of symbolic meaning to both the characters and the setting in general. The community in Maycomb targeted Tom, Boo, and Atticus because of certain traits that were not necessarily enough to gauge their characters. Tom is being targeted because of their race and is falsely accused of rape. Since he is black, the jury does not take time to review the case, and most of the critical evidence is disregarded. He is considered to jail and later shot after he tries to escape. This shows that society's oppression of black people regardless destroys the innocent (Meyer 14). On the other hand, Boo is judged based on his character and is targeted for his behaviors in society. It is only after saving Jem and Scout that the children begin to change their perceptions of this character. Finally, Atticus is almost lynched by a crowd for protecting a black man, and he is white. The white community questioned his actions to defend Tom Robinson since it is not expected for a white man to protect or side with a black man. Society was ready to lynch Atticus because of an innocent act of trying to do what was right. In this manner, much of his evidence is disregarded, and he loses the case either way.

Works Cited

Meyer, Michael J. Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird: New Essays. Scarecrow P, 2010.

Mills, Catriona. To Kill a Mockingbird. Insight Publications, 2011.

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Literary Analysis Essay on Symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird. (2022, Feb 11). Retrieved from

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