Figurative Language In To Kill A Mockingbird

essay B

Get Full Essay

Get access to this section to get all the help you need with your essay and educational goals.

Get Access

Its a sin to kill a mockingbird. This line, spoken by Atticus, sums up the theme

of this book. A mockingbird is a harmless bird that makes the world more pleasant. In

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the mockingbird symbolizes Boo Radley and

Tom Robinson, who were both peaceful people who never did any harm. To kill or harm

them would be a sin. Scouts father, Atticus, tells Scout and Jem, Id rather you shoot at

tin cans in the backyard, but I know youll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you

want, if you can hitem, but remember its a sin to kill a mockingbird.(p.69) The

mockingbird symbolizes these two characters because it does not have its own song.

Whereas, the blue jay is loud and obnoxious, the mockingbird only sings other birds

songs. Therefore, the mockingbird is seen through the other birds. The people of

Maycomb only knew Boo Radley and Tom Robinson by what others said about them.

Both of these characters do not really have their own song in a sense, and therefore, are

characterized by other peoples viewpoints.

Boo Radley went through his life never wanting to hurt a fly. He left gum,

pennies, and wax dolls for Scout and Jem. He sewed Jems pants and left them on the

fence so he could get them easily. He also saved Scouts and Jems lives while risking

his own. Boo was a fragile and gentle person. Throughout the novel, Scout, Jem, and

Dill are curious about the mysterious Boo Radley because he never comes outside from

his house or associates with anyone in the neighborhood. The children are, in fact, afraid

of him because of all the stories they hear about him from the people in Maycomb. For

example, Miss Stephanie tells the children that while Boo was sitting in the living room

cutting a magazine, he drove the scissors into his parents leg, pulled them out, wiped

them on his pants, and resumed his activities. (p.ll) After hearing stories like these, the

children consider him to be evil. Gradually they assume more about Boo because he

never plays outside or with anyone, and therefore, the children are not convinced

otherwise. Boo Radley becomes a game for the children and they act out Boo Radley

scenarios that they believed to be true. These stories were based on the gossip that trails

through their neighborhood. In reality, no one knew anything about Boo Radley. He

stayed inside of his house and remained reclusive in Maycomb County. At the end of the

book, Scout finally meets Boo Radley after he helps her and Jem escape Mr. Ewell. She

finds that her beliefs about him are not true. Essentially, she finds the songs that the

neighbors were putting into his mouth were not true.

Chopping wood and doing whatever he could for Mayella Ewell was Tom

Robinsons only crime. Just like Boo Radley, Tom never harmed a soul. He risked his

own safety by helping Mayella, and he did it because someone needed him. It was like a

mockingbird being shot down when Robinson was accused of raping Mayella. To the

people of Maycomb County, Tom Robinson is just a sorry nigger, who committed an

unthinkable crime. Tom represents the black race in American society at that time and

was a victim of racism. Like Boo Radley, Tom Robinson is characterized by what the

people of Maycomb County say about him. After being accused of rape, most of the

people see him as an evil beast. During the trial while Bob Ewell testifies, he points to

Tom Robinson and says, I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin on my Mayella. (p.73)

According to Mr. Ewell, Tom Robinson is an animal who tormented and violated his

daughter. Throughout the trial, Tom is portrayed in this manner because of the racist

mentality of the people in Maycomb. Even though there is a sufficient amount of proof

which shows he did not commit the crime, Tom is a black man who will be denied

justice. Atticus reinforces this idea when he tells Jem, in our courts, when its a white

mans word against a black mans, the white man always wins. (p.220) Generally, this

was the mentality of most Americans at the time. Black people did not have their own

song, other people sang their songs based on beliefs about them. Like Boo Radley,

people only knew Tom Robinson through what others said about him.

In the book, Boo Radley is a micro version of Tom Robinson. Boo is the outcast

of the neighborhood, but at the time, Tom was the outcast of the society. Throughout the

trial, Scout and Jem believe in Tom Robinsons innocence. They see him for who they

believe he is, and do not know enough about racism to be part of it. They did not believe

the trial was fair because they believed there was evidence in Tom Robinsons favor. At

the end of the book, however, Scout realizes the same about Boo Radley. When she

finally meets him, she sees how unfair she had been to him. In actuality, Boo contradicts

everything that the children believed about him. The fact that no one realized the unfair

treatment of Tom Robinson made his death that much more tragic.

Harper Lee uses the mockingbird to symbolize Tom and Boo. When Atticus tells

Jem and Scout that it is a sin to kill the mockingbird, this refers to the actions directed

toward Tom and Boo. It was a sin to dislike Tom and Boo based on what others say

about them. They were punished by the people in Maycomb because they did not have

their own voice. Lee is trying to explain to her readers that there are many people

without their own voice in our society. As it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, it is a sin to

kill those without a voice. Scout realized that it was wrong to assume evil things about

Boo Radley. It was unfortunate that the people of Maycomb did not realize their unfair

treatment of Tom Robinson. A mockingbird was shot and the readers get to see how

Bibliography:

Get instant access to
all materials

Become a Member
unlock