To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee

June 26, 2013
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Harper Lee’s To Kill a mockingbird is one of America’s most talked about books, and the curiosity behind the title and to whom it refers to grows greater every day. A mockingbird represents innocence and nobility, proving that in order to be one you must be kind and caring. The dauntless way that Atticus, Tom, Boo Radley and the young adolescents are portrayed, in comparison to the malicious characters such as the Ewells, the reader is able to interpret their actions and conclude that Atticus, his friends and his family are the true mockingbirds of the novel.
Throughout the novel atticus maintains a great sense of morality and acts as both a hero and an example for his kids. Although Atticus doesn’t look the part of a hero, as Pansar writes “Yet at first glance he does not appear as a typical hero.His physical shortcomings are carefully enumerated; his children chafe against the fact that he is older than their classmates' parents so that he is unable to play football with Jem, nor does he hunt, drink, play poker, or do anything else glamorous in their eyes; he simply "sits in the living room and reads"” (Panesar 45), he certainly plays the part. Atticus sets an example for both his children, and the town of maycomb by doing what he knows is moral, even if the whole town, and family disagrees with him, as he says “They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.” (Lee 143). While fighting for Tom’s life Atticus knew that he was fighting a dead cause, since no court has ever sided with a black man before. However he still gives it everything he has and defends Tom through everything, even if he suffers from humiliation in front of his family and town, Professor Heims agrees as he writes “He is upright to a fault, intellectually dedicated to what is right, and emotionally solid. He projects the sense of a deeply chastened yet compassionate spirit that, like Boo Radley, shuns the light of day but comes to the rescue when danger threatens. He is content to be withdrawn and ready to be engaged. He is aware that he will lose the battle for Tom Robinson's life and freedom even as he, nevertheless, addresses it. Regarding the origins of the story Scout tells in To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus says, aware of shifting perspectives, that they "were both right."” (Heims 53). Atticus treats everyone the same; with respect. No matter how poor, or mean, the person is or if they’re black or white, Atticus respects everyone, and sets as a heroic role model for his children as he advises them “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, he is trash.” (Lee 295). After watching how rude Bob’s lawyer acted to Tom and how Tom was being treated Dill couldn’t understand why he was being treated that way because all he has ever witnessed was Atticus’s kindness towards others as he cries “Well, Mr. Finch didn’t act that way to Mayella and old man Ewell when he crossexamined them. The way that man called him ‘boy’ all the time an‘ sneered at him, an’ looked around at the jury every time he answered— It ain’t right, somehow it ain’t right to do ‘em that way. Hasn’t anybody got any business talkin’ like that—it just makes me sick.” (Lee 266).
The saying “it is a sin to kill a mockingbird" has been repeatedly said in the book, and in the same way it was a sin to kill Tom. Similarly to a mockingbird all Tom did was “sing for others”, meaning that all he did was help others. Tom Robinson was a good man, and a hard worker who ended up being a scapegoat of Maycomb due to his race. He helped Mayella one day and asked for nothing in return, just like a mockingbird, as Miss Maudie says “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, 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.” (Lee 119). The death of Tom Robinson is a very tragic event due to the fact that it is linked to a sin, as Panesar writes “The words “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” echo throughout the novel. The songbird is symbolic of innocence and joy allowed to live — or be threatened and destroyed. Robinson and Boo Radley become its human equivalents in the novel. The editor of Maycomb’s newspaper likens the killing of Robinson during his alleged escape attempt to “the senseless slaughter of songbirds,” and Scout says that turning Boo Radley over to the police for killing Bob Ewell would be “sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird.”(Panesar 46). Nearly the whole town of Maycomb believe that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird including Atticus, since he warns Jem “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird." (Lee 119). After witnessing the sin that has undergone, the town of Maycomb knew that they were to blame, and after the death of Bob Ewell, they knew that they could not let another innocent man take the blame, or so to say kill another mockingbird. Surrounded by guilt Tate the sheriff says “There's a black boy dead for no reason, and the man responsible for it's dead. Let the dead bury the dead this time” (Lee 278).
Throughout Maycomb the rumors about Boo Radley are endless, whether it’s about how he killed a man with his own hands or how he’s covered in scars , the whole town seems to believe that Boo is inadequate, however we soon discover that Boo is actually an amendable guy who's just misunderstood. Fortunately Boo Radley hadn’t lived up to any of the rumors, and after Scout finally meets Boo she tell her father “Atticus, he was real nice” (Lee 376). Throughout the story Boo begins to form an indirect friendship with Jem and Scout. It begins with such little things such as leaving them little gifts in the trees, and sewing Jem’s pants back together when he rips them after trying to break into Boo’s house. Then it progresses on to more of physical level, like when he covers Scout with a blanket outside while she’s watching Miss Maudie’s house burn down, and when kills Bob Ewell before he could kill them. Boo Radley has always been silently watching over the children without getting praised or getting anything in return, however he is later on recognized as a mockingbird as Lee writes “Tom Robinson's death (Lee 262) and the treatment of Boo Radley (Lee 202) are both explicitly compared to the shooting of mockingbirds—"which don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us," as Miss Maudie remarks (Lee 98). Scout recognizes Boo’s acts of kindness and how it went by unspoken for, as she says “Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.” (Lee 373). Scout finally comes to the realization that you can’t always believe what you hear, and to follow her father’s advice of trying to understand someone before you judge them as she says “Summer, and he watches his children's heart break. Autumn again and Boo's children needed him. Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.” (Lee 374). Jem also made up his own conclusions about Boo, "Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time... it's because he wants to stay inside.” (Lee 117). Jem comes to the realization that all those rumors may not be true, and that maybe Boo is inside by choice due the unfairness of the world outside. After the death of Bob Ewell there is a debate over what to do with the story of how Bob died, and Tate knows that Boo is a good guy which is why he wants to make up a story of how Bob fell on his own knife, killing himself, just like Tate says “To my way of thinkin', Mr. Finch, taking the one man who's done you and this town a great service an' draggin' him with his shy ways into the limelight—to me, that's a sin. It's a sin and I'm not about to have it on my head. If it was any other man, it'd be different. But not this man, Mr. Finch." (Lee 368). Realizing that Boo is considered a mockingbird, Tate doesn’t want to kill another one by taking him to court over a crime that he doesn’t deserve to suffer for.
All the children who have once been ignorant to reality have now been corrupted of their innocence in the town of Maycomb, and have to face the harsh and unfair real world outside of them. After being able to see things the way they want to the kids have finally reached the point where they must face the real world as Panesar writes “The story is also about the loss of innocence in the sense that the children—Scout, Jem, and Dill—come to recognize the nature and the power of evil active in the world as they grow older.” (Panesar 46). Dill, who has just witnessed the most horrific thing being done to Tom in court, doesn’t know what to do and goes with Scout to see Dolphus Raymond for advice. It is here where they find out that he is not a drunkard, but actually a caring man who knows that the people of Maycomb won’t understand his motifs, and so he covers it up pretending to be a drunkard, "It ain’t honest but it’s mighty helpful to folks. Secretly, Miss Finch, I’m not much of a drinker, but you see they could never, never understand that I live like I do because that’s the way I want to live."(Lee 268). Throughout Atticus's process of working on Tom’s case Jem always expected Atticus to win, even though Atticus would tell him not to get his hopes up since they weren’t going to win. Jem always had the tiny glimpse of hope that they would win and Tom would be free. After watching the trial and seeing how well his father was doing Jem was a hundred percent sure that they would win, and after witnessing him lose Jem faced reality and lost all hope and faced the reality, that "Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed." (Lee 244). Meanwhile scout is innocent and unaware of the discrimination and unfairness of the world around her. When someone asks her if her father is a n***** lover, she doesn’t know how to respond because she is ignorant to reality due to her innocence and bliss towards others. Her innocence is a part of her that she starts to lose as she matures and learns about the concepts such as hate, discrimination, and prejudice. She develops rapidly from a young innocent girl who sees good in people to smart realistic girl who can look beyond what she and others want to see to what there really is to see.
The Ewell’s are poor, malicious, people that seek acceptance in the town of Maycomb, however due to their cruel behavior, and irrational ways the Ewells are striped form their acceptance along with any chance they had at gaining the mockingbird title. The Ewell’s are the exact opposite of anything near a mockingbird, as Heims writes “But To Kill a Mockingbird is also a story whose morality is defined in black and white terms. Right and wrong, virtue and vice do not blend into each other in To Kill a Mockingbird and are not relative. They are absolute and absolutely distinct from each other, as are the persons of the book who represent virtue and vice or certain of their aspects---- Atticus and Bob Ewell, for example, the two great adversaries in To Kill a Mockingbird, represent the contrast of wisdom and ignorance, of fairness and bigotry, of generosity and crabbedness. Their relationships with their daughters, Atticus's with Scout and Ewell's with Mayella, represent a contrast in the possibilities of father/daughter relationships and, by extension, of the human disposition. The former one is generous and nurturing; the latter, selfish, exploitative, and abusive.” (Heims, 56). After being humiliated in court Bob Ewell got exactly what he didn’t want happening, his goals was to send Tom Robinson to jail and be the hero of the town allowing him and his family to rejoin the prestige maycomb community, so in Bob’s cruel mind if he can’t win, then no one can. Bob planned on getting his revenge on everyone who sided against him, starting with Atticus, and ending with anyone that Atticus cares about. He started off by spitting in Atticus’s eye and warning him that he will get his revenge. However Atticus sees the best in everyone and thought that all this was just an empty threat so he gets the last word. Next Bob tried to vandalize the judges house, and lastly he tried to kill Jem and Scout. Unlike Bob, Mayella had an opportunity to break free from the terrible Ewell ways and start off fresh, all she had to do was tell the truth in front of the judge in court. By doing that she would send Bob to jail, Tom would be free, and she would be able to start off fresh without her abusive drunken father. Instead Mayella lied saying that Tom raped her, and sent Tom to jail for a crime he didn’t commit, and eventually killed, she killed a mockingbird. In this novel the Ewells are the true sinners, all they have done was bring injustice to innocent people.
Atticus, his friends, and his family, have showed nothing less than a sense of morality, bravery, and courage throughout the novel, demonstrating their true resemblances to mockingbirds, meanwhile all the Ewells have done was convict an innocent man of a crime he didn’t do, and almost take the lives of another two innocent children. In order for one to be a true mockingbird they must be able to do things for the benefit of others and not just oneself, and demonstrate their true moral intentions. The town of Maycomb may or may not progress with wisdom of discrimination, however no matter how many Ewell’s there are, there will always be mockingbirds to balance out nature.

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