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The Significance of the Mockingbird in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”


Harper Lee’s timeless novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, has captivated readers for decades with its powerful story and memorable characters. Set in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s, the novel follows young Scout Finch as she navigates issues of race, justice, and morality through the eyes of her father, Atticus. One symbol that stands out in this novel is the mockingbird, which is mentioned several times throughout the story. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of the mockingbird in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and how it adds depth and meaning to the novel.

Background on Harper Lee and the Novel

Before diving into the symbolism and significance of the mockingbird in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, it is important to first understand the author and the context in which the novel was written. Harper Lee, born in Monroeville, Alabama in 1926, drew inspiration from her own childhood experiences growing up in the South during the Great Depression. She began writing “To Kill a Mockingbird” in the late 1950s and it was published in 1960. The novel received critical acclaim and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is a coming-of-age story that deals with themes of racism, prejudice, and social injustice. It is narrated by the main character, Scout Finch, who is based on Harper Lee herself. The novel is set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, which is said to be modeled after Lee’s hometown. The story is told through the innocent eyes of a child, giving readers a unique perspective on the events that unfold.

Symbolism of the Mockingbird

The Significance of the Mockingbird in Harper Lee's

In “To Kill a Mockingbird”, the mockingbird is used as a powerful symbol to represent innocence and vulnerability. Throughout the novel, characters refer to the mockingbird as a harmless creature that brings nothing but beauty and joy to the world. This symbolism is first introduced in Chapter 10, when Atticus gives Scout and Jem air rifles for Christmas and tells them, “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

The mockingbird is also mentioned by Miss Maudie, a neighbor and friend of the Finch family, who explains to Scout the meaning behind Atticus’ words. She 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 corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

From this point on, the mockingbird takes on a deeper meaning in the novel, representing innocence and purity. It becomes a recurring motif, reminding readers of the good and innocent things in the world that should be protected and cherished.

Significance of the Mockingbird in the Novel

The Significance of the Mockingbird in Harper Lee's

Now that we have established the symbolism of the mockingbird, let us explore its significance in “To Kill a Mockingbird”. One of the most obvious connections to this symbol is through the character of Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Tom is portrayed as a kind and gentle man who has done nothing wrong, yet he is targeted and persecuted simply because of his race. Like the mockingbird, Tom is innocent and harmless, but his life is taken away due to the prejudice and racism of others.

Another character who can be seen as a symbolic mockingbird is Boo Radley. Boo is a recluse who is feared and misunderstood by the townspeople. He is unfairly judged and isolated because of his eccentric behavior, but in reality, he is a kind and caring person who has been wronged by society. Just like the mockingbird, Boo is innocent and vulnerable, yet he faces persecution and mistreatment simply because he is different.

The mockingbird can also be seen as a symbol for the children in the novel, Scout and Jem. Throughout the story, they are exposed to the harsh realities of the world, including racism and violence. However, they still maintain their innocence and optimism, much like the mockingbird’s ability to sing despite the challenges it faces. The mockingbird serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting and preserving childhood innocence, even in a world full of injustice and cruelty.

Themes Related to the Mockingbird

In addition to its symbolism and significance, the mockingbird also ties into several major themes in “To Kill a Mockingbird”. One of these themes is the destructive nature of prejudice and discrimination. The mockingbird represents the innocent victims who are unfairly targeted and harmed by prejudice and discrimination. Through this symbol, Lee highlights the destructive impact of these societal issues and the need for change and compassion.

The mockingbird also ties into the theme of empathy and understanding. In order to truly understand another person’s perspective and experiences, one must be able to see the world through their eyes. This is exemplified through Atticus’ famous quote, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” By embracing this mindset, characters in the novel are able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and develop empathy and compassion, just as they would for the innocent and harmless mockingbird.

Lastly, the mockingbird connects to the idea of growing up and loss of innocence. As the children in the novel witness the harsh realities of the world, their innocence and naivety are slowly stripped away. This is exemplified through Jem’s realization that the justice system is flawed and Atticus’ loss of faith in the justice system after Tom Robinson’s trial. The mockingbird serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving innocence, even in the face of difficult and unsettling truths.


In conclusion, the mockingbird in “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a powerful symbol that adds depth and meaning to the novel. Through its representation of innocence and vulnerability, the mockingbird highlights important themes such as prejudice, empathy, and growing up. It also serves as a reminder of the need to protect and preserve the good and innocent things in our world. Harper Lee’s use of this symbol has made “To Kill a Mockingbird” not only a literary masterpiece, but also a timeless classic that continues to resonate with readers of all ages.

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