The novel and screenplay To Kill A Mockingbird are titled from a somewhat iconic quote by character Atticus Finch. “Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird. Mockingbirds don't do one thing except make music for us to enjoy.” This bit of advice may seem unrelated to the storyline, more of a warning for a child with a BB gun, but this quote intimately relates to both the main plot and the subplot. The main plot being Tom Robinson’s trial, and the subplot the mystery of Boo Radley. Even more so, though, this story relates to my life. And every other precious life in existence.
When analyzed, that quote is discovered to be referring to prejudice and inequality. We, the whole of humanity, tend to see all “birds” as the same. Thoughtlessly punishing all for the corruption of one. This story was written in the 1960’s as an attempt to expose the deeply rooted racism of that time. But inequality is no longer a problem. We have destroyed segregation and hateful racism. We are all equal – NOT. Over fifty years later, this is still one of the biggest problems in our society. Almost everyone has an inborn sense of sinful entitlement, but we cannot dwell in that type of immorality. We must be world changers – not the complainers and campaigners. Although I don’t particularly agree with all that Mahatma Gandhi stood for, I do agree with this particular quote credited to him: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies of the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him . . . We need not wait to see what others do.”
Actually, racism is more worrisome today, then it was in the 1960’s. Because we have convinced ourselves that it isn’t as big of a problem as it was then. But it is. A big one. And it doesn’t just go one way. Everyone, of every race, every lifestyle, and every religion is prejudice. Only in the presence of God do we find true equality – it is something that will never materialize on this earth. But we can show God in our individual lives, by living selflessly and loving others – creating simple changes that will positively impact those around us.
The main plot of To Kill A Mockingbird is the trial of Tom Robinson. He is a black man accused of raping a young white woman. There is no evidence that Tom did anything, yet he is convicted of the crime – why is this? Well, the evidence actually points to the young woman’s father abusing her. But do fathers abuse their daughters? No. Never. And of course, they sickeningly support the idea that all men of color are practically inhuman and potentially dangerous. So, what does the jury decide? To kill the mockingbird and let the blue jay keep eating the garden. This sounds crazy, right? We would never do anything like that, would we? Guess what? We do. ALL. THE. TIME. Our society doesn’t just use this thought process, we exemplify it.
Likewise is the theme of the subplot, Boo Radley is just an extremely antisocial man who prefers to isolate himself. But this thought had never even crossed the ignorant townfolks' minds. They saw an opportunity to speculate. Gossip. Blatantly lie. Because, you know, it’s all the same if Boo never hears it, right? This poor man, who experienced extreme social anxiety was being treated as would be a lunatic. Instead of making sure it’s a blue jay before they shoot, Arthur Radley’s neighbors ignorantly kill the mockingbird.
It may seem like a story created for the 1960’s, but this story will never age. It will be relevant as long as life endures, because we cannot cultivate true equality in our world. Not now, not ever. This story is a treasure, and has taught me more about life than you could ever anticipate from a two-hour movie (or 281 page book). It is, and probably always will be, one of my favorite stories. Don’t kill the mockingbirds. And if you’re a mockingbird, don’t let anyone silence your song.