The novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, told in the eyes of a small girl, gives an insight to the discrimination and prejudice in the Southern America during the 1930s. In Harper Lee’s novel we discover that the title of her book To Kill a Mockingbird has several meanings. Atticus states that it a sin to kill a mockingbird, as they only produce beautiful music for the community. We also gradually begin to uncover some of the people symbolising the mockingbird, in the Maycomb community.
‘Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for to enjoy’ (p.99-100). The mockingbird is a creature that does not harm and destroy anybody’s garden. They just simply ‘sing their hearts out for us’ (p.100). It is a sin to kill a mockingbird because you can not murder something that has done no wrong, committed no harm and simply minds their own business. Mockingbirds sing beautiful melodies that fill the neighbourhood. Mockingbirds commit no harm to anyone or anything, therefore it is only sensible that we do not harm the mockingbird in any way, just like the mockingbird has done us no harm. That is why it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. In Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird there are many references to the mockingbird. Harper Lee also makes some references to the people who are symbols of the mockingbird as they are like the mockingbird.
One of the people in the Maycomb who is a mockingbird is Mr Arthur Radley, also commonly known as Boo Radley. Mr Arthur is a thin and bony man. His eyes are colourless; his hair ‘dead and thin’ (p.298); and his skin is very pale. Mr Arthur described as a “malevolent phantom”, by the Finch children and Dill, lived a secluded life inside his own home. Some people have declared Boo as crazy, evil and unpredictable. People were warned to stay well away from Mr Arthur the Radley house, especially at night, as they believed that bad things happened in that house.
However, it was not so, Boo so kindly gave Scout and Jem many things. Boo slipped several possession into the knot-hole tree, as a mean of communication with the children. Just like a mockingbird sings all day for the community, Boo gave the children chewing gum, an ancient Native-American coin, two wooden dolls of Jem and Scout and a pocket watch. Boo would have given more if Mr Nathan Radley did not seal the knot-hole with cement. Not only is Boo one of the “mockingbirds” in Maycomb but he is also a good neighbour. Boo showed us that he was a good neighbour when he saved the lives of the children when Bob Ewell attacked them. Boo heard the cries of the children and in putting his life at risk; he displays qualities of genuine concern for others. By Mr Arthur’s kind gesture and committing of no wrong he shows us that he is truly a “mockingbird”.
Another mockingbird of the Maycomb community is Tom Robinson, trialled for the alleged rape of Mayella Ewell. Bob Ewell accused Tom of the supposed rape of his daughter. This innocent Negro was wrongly done by when he was found by the Court of Maycomb to be ‘ “guilty…guilty…guilty…guilty…” ‘(p.233). Tom Robinson was the object of a white man’s hatred for the act he was found guilty for. He was also the perfect object of Mayella’s desperation to be loved and her father’s plan to frame Tom for the act which he did not commit. After being found guilty, the pressures and uncertainties of life in jail forced him to the maximum. Tom Robinson attempted to escape his worries and was shot fifteen times by prison guards. Tom was a “mockingbird” as he only gave to the community and he was happy to do it. One time Mayella offered a nickel for Tom’s services but he was just happy that he was helping her. Tom always minded his own business and always did what other people told him to do without hesitation. Within the Negro community he was a respected person and also considered an honest man.
A mockingbird brings beauty into an ordinary world; ‘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 Atticus continually says ‘it is a sin to kill a mockingbird’ (p.100). Mr Arthur Radley and Tom Robinson were “mockingbirds” because they did not do one thing but give and give, and they never stopped or hesitated in doing so. Arthur Radley concealed himself in his house because he recognised the ugliness and hatred society had in it, from experiencing the punish endured by other inhabitants of Maycomb when he too was convicted of a crime he did not commit. Tom Robinson was the object that aroused the hate and prejudice that Mr Arthur Radley hid from, the kinds of experiences Tom endured. The title of the novel To Kill A Mockingbird has many meanings – it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, as they only bring beauty into the world. The other meaning of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is that it is wrong that Boo Radley and Tom Robinson are hassled by others. They did not harm anyone and still they were subjected to mistreatment by society.