To Kill a Mockingbird: Themes and Symbols
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the most widely read books of American fiction. The novel has sold over 30 million copies in more than 40 languages. Why does the book continue to enthral us? Probably because it presents complex moral, ethical and social issues in a simple and beautifully narrated manner. Racism, injustice, oppression are presented in a way that even the youngest readers recognize as simplistic and naïve. To Kill a Mockingbird has interesting motifs and symbols that make it a thoughtful and moving story.
The most significant theme of the novel is the fight of good and evil. The author opens this problem by portraying the change of Scout and Jem’s childhood innocence to the adult experience. They think that all people around them are good as children have never met other people before. Their perception of the surrounding world changes when they confront evil. While Scout can preserve her faith in human nature, the Jem’s conviction in humanity and honesty is broken. The highly moral tone of the book is presented by Atticus Finch who has faced evil but continues to keep his faith in goodness. He believes that all people have good and bad qualities, and it is essential to value the good qualities and accept the bad ones by treating people with sympathy. He explains this important lesson to his children showing that it’s not so difficult to live without becoming skeptical or losing faith.
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The significance of moral education is another theme presented in a book. It is most strongly demonstrated through the communication between Atticus and his children. The scenes at school show a direct counterpoint to the effective education of Atticus: Scout is often confronted with teachers who are simply unconcerned in children’s needs. The story’s conclusion about education is the most important lesson of understanding and sympathy. Atticus is able to put himself in his children’s shoes, what makes him an excellent teacher, while Miss Caroline’s application of education techniques she learned in college makes her unsuccessful.
Harper Lee also discloses the theme of social diversity. The hierarchy of Maycomb and the differences is social status often confuse the children, they are shown as damaging and ridiculous. For instance, Scout can’t realize why Aunt Alexandra doesn’t let her friend with Walter Cunningham. The children’s puzzlement is used to blame the aspect of social status and bias in human interplay.
The title of a book To Kill a Mockingbird is not literally connected with the plot but has huge symbolic weight. The “mockingbird” presents the notion of innocence. Thus, to kill a mockingbird means to damage the innocence. In the novel, some characters, such as Jam, Dill, Boo Radley, Tom Robinson, Mr. Raymond, can be recognized as mockingbirds – innocent people who have been damaged through the interaction with evil. Thus, at the end of the book, Scout believes that hurting Boo Radley would be like shooting a mockingbird. The last name of Scout and Jem is Finch which is a type of small bird. It demonstrates that children are defenseless in the evil racist world of Maycomb which usually destroys the children’s innocence.
When the story develops, the children’s attitude to Boo Radley changes. It can be used as an evaluation of their growth and evolution from the child innocent beliefs to the adult moral. At the very beginning of the story, Boo is a source of superstition. However, when the novel comes to the end, he becomes human to Scout, showing that she has become an understanding person. Boo is one of the greatest mockingbirds in a book. He is a symbol of good that remains in all people.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a great novel based to a large degree on Harper Lee’s childhood experience. It’s hard to argue with the book’s message of standing out for the right things even when the cost is high. The novel is rightly considered the American classic. Its morality, great presentation of characters, its themes and symbols make the book a must-read.