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					  Symbolism



To Kill a Mockingbird
            The Mockingbird


• A creature that should never be killed
  because it is harmless and even provides
  song for the enjoyment of others.
• Boo Radley and Tom Robinson are
  basically blameless individuals who are at
  the mercy of society, yet society is cruel to
  Boo and ultimately Tom is murdered.
          The Mockingbird
• The symbol of the mockingbird also points
  to Scout, both as an innocent child and as
  the grown-up narrator who “sings a song”
  in telling the story.
• Both Boo and Tom are discriminated
  against in Maycomb when they are, in fact,
  kind and gentle people
           The Mockingbird
• Bluejays, on the other hand, are
  considered to be the bullies of the bird
  world. They are very loud, territorial, and
  aggressive.
               The Mockingbird
• Atticus tells the children that it is a “sin to kill a
  mockingbird”
• Mr. Underwood wrote in an editorial that “it was
  a sin to kill cripples […and] he likened Tom’s
  death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by
  hunters and children.”
• When Heck Tate decided that he would not
  arrest (or publicly praise) Boo for killing Bob
  Ewell and that Bob’s death would be presented
  as an accident, Atticus asked Scout if she
  understood the meaning of this decision. She
  replied saying she did: “Well, it’d be sort of like
  killing a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”
            The Mockingbird
• The mockingbird is a bird that has no song
  of its own; it just imitates other birds.
  Therefore it makes itself present by being
  seen through other birds –
• Tom has never done anything wrong; he
  only works hard and tries to be a good
  man by helping others; this is his song.
• Dill could have been a mockingbird, but
  his place in and acceptance by the Finch
  family saves him from persecution.
            The Mockingbird
• As Atticus cross-examines Mayella, he is
  clearly disturbed by the methods he has to
  use to save Tom’s life. He must hurt a
  helpless creature who is doing the best
  she can in a battle she lost at birth.
• Mayella is a mockingbird of sorts and
  Atticus must kill her. However, she is not
  entirely a helpless victim as she is hurting
  another person to save herself. (ch 18)
            The Mockingbird
• The black community, being helpless
  under the white control of southern
  society, can also be seen as a potential
  mockingbird.
• Scout tells Dill and Dolphus Raymond that,
  “Atticus says cheatin’ a colored man is ten
  times worse than cheatin’ a white
  man…it’s the worst thing you can do.” (ch
  20)
             The Mockingbird
• Jem scolds Scout for hurting a roly-poly:
  “Because they don’t bother you.”
• Helen Robinson, upon hearing of Tom’s
  murder, “just fell down in the dirt. Just fell
  down in the dirt like a giant with a big foot
  just came along and stepped on her…Like
  you’d step on an ant.”
• Mr. Ewell speaks of Tom Robinson, Judge
  Taylor, and Atticus Finch as if they are
  less than human: “One down and about
  two more to go.”               (ch 25)
            The Mockingbird
• Reference to the Holocaust in Germany;
  persecution of Jews – the only difference
  is that Miss Gates is compassionate about
  them. (ch 26)
The Mad Dog
             The Mad Dog
• The madness of Maycomb’s racial
  prejudices.
• Bob Ewell can be seen as a mad dog
  because he does not think rationally and
  his prejudices and hatred consume him
  like a disease and spread through the
  town like a virus.
• Mad dogs “usually go in a straight line”
  according to Heck Tate. This symbolizes
  the stubborn attitude of the people of
  Maycomb who are either too proud or too
  lazy to change their minds.
              The Mad Dog
• Tim Johnson was probably infected with a
  contagious disease such as rabies and so
  “he’s just as dangerous dead as alive.”
• Heck Tate said about Bob Ewell: “there
  are just some kind of men you have to
  shoot before you can say howdy to 'em.”
• Atticus is the only one present at the time
  (Tim Johnson) that can kill the dog and put
  it out of its misery.
                  The Mad Dog
• Therefore, Atticus can be seen as the only one who
  can help Maycomb see the error of its ways and try
  to bring peace to the racial conflict and putting that
  “mad dog” down.
• Atticus is the hero who destroys the evil: he stops
  the disease of prejudice from spreading further.
• When the jury returns, Scout knows they will return
  a guilty verdict before the decision is read: “I saw
  something only a lawyer's child could be expected to
  see, could be expected to watch for, and it was like
  watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a rifle to
  his shoulder and pull the trigger, but watching all the
  time knowing that the gun was empty. A jury never
  looks at a defendant it has convicted, and when this
  jury came in, not one of them looked at Tom
  Robinson (ch 21).
 The Mad Dog = The Mob (ch 15)
• The Mad Dog is impervious to
  reason; is diseased and mindlessly
  pursues a path from which he cannot
  deviate; is unable to recognize those
  humans he would normally be friendly
  to
• Anonymity is the driving force behind
  all mob action; as soon as a single
  human being is drawn out of the dark,
  the power lessens.
  The Mad Dog = The Mob (ch 15)
• The first group to speak to Atticus is ch. 15
  do so in the daylight at his home: the
  children recognize them and they are seen
  as individuals. Both Atticus and the men
  attempt to reason with each other.
• Like the dog, the mob at the jail cell is
  intent on one purpose; like the dog, Atticus
  cannot use his normal weapons (his mind
  and his words). Instead, violence may
  once again have been the only option (Mr.
  Underwood – who happened to be one of
  the men at his home).
  The Mad Dog = The Mob (ch 16)
• Scout sees the parallel between the mad
  dog and mob and she cries the morning
  after. She just taught herself something
  for the first time in the novel.
• Later, Atticus reinforces this when he
  says, “So it took an eight-year-old child to
  bring 'em to their senses.... That proves
  something - that a gang of wild animals
  can be stopped, simply because they're
  still human. Hmp, maybe we need a
  police force of children” (ch. 16)
      Flowers:
  Camellias & Snow-
  on-the-Mountains
• The camellia is a state flower of Alabama;
  symbolically Jem attempts to destroy the
  prejudice of the people of Alabama.
• This is not an easy task. Mrs. Dubose
  taunts, “Thought you could kill my Snow-on-
  the-Mountain, did you?[…] the top’s growing
  back out. Next time you’ll know how to do it
  right, won’t you? You’ll pull it up by the roots,
  won’t you”
 Flowers: Camellia &
    Snow-on-the-
      Mountain
• In order to combat prejudice, one must tackle
  the root of the problem, the attitudes planted
  in the minds of people for many generations.
• Pulling roots is far more difficult than cutting
  the tops off of the flowers, symbolizing the
  difficulty of destroying prejudice.
• The camellias represent courage, tolerance,
  and patience for both Jem and Mrs. Dubose.
         Flowers:
        Geraniums

• The geraniums in Mayella’s yard are
  symbolic of her yearning for a better life and
  to be more than she is perceived to be.
• In a decaying house, Mayella’s flowers seem
  out of place. If they were not so common,
  they would belong better in Miss Maudie’s
  yard since such flowers need to be taken
  care of with love – which is not evident in the
  Ewell home.
                   Names
• Bird references: FINCH, ROBINson
• A “scout” is someone who goes in front
  of a group of people to see what lies
  ahead. Scout Finch goes ahead of the
  others (her peers and even some
  adults) to realize the perils of racism. A
  perfect name for an inquisitive, curious
  child!
• Jem: gem; jewel, something precious
  and valuable.
                    Names
• Tom Robinson: literary character Uncle
  Tom and the novel’s main symbolic
  motif.

• Mayella Violet Ewell:
  – Mayella: evokes the word “yellow”, a slang
    word for coward (coward for refusing to
    recant her false accusation of rape.
  – Violet – derivation of violent (victim of her
    father’s violence)
                 Names
• Bob Ewell (Robert E. Lee Ewell):
  Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
  There was also another Civil War leader
  by the name of General Richard Ewell.
  Bob Ewell represents racism and the
  Old South.

• Atticus: derivation of the name of
  Roman philosopher who was known for
  being impartial in arguments.
              Knothole gifts
•   Gum
•   Indian head pennies
•   Twine
•   Soap dolls
•   Spelling medal
•   Pocket watch
•   Knife
       Importance of Knothole
• The knothole is a source of
  communication
• Boo communicates with J&S by
  leaving gifts in the tree since he
  can’t go outside
• The kids fantasize about him
• He is trying to give them small
  pieces of himself
• Each gift gives them a little more
  insight into Boo as a person.
 Nathan Cements the Tree:
  -cements the end of the
         friendship
Cements that Jem will never
         thank him
      Cements Boo’s
       imprisonment
   The tree that Nathan describes as dying
   might symbolize the Radley family tree –
   diseased by Mr. Radley’s cruelty towards
                     Boo.
  He (Mr. Nathan) might also view the family
tree as diseased b/c of Arthur – his perceived
mental illness is the knothole / disease in the
                      tree.
Atticus (reasonable and nonjudgmental) does
not see “Boo” as “Diseased”, nor does he see
   the knothole as a symptom of a disease.




The cement covers up the imperfection in the
                 family.
• Before the rumors ever started, the
  Radleys were discriminated against
  because they “kept to themselves …they
  did not go to church, Maycomb’s principal
  recreation, but worshipped at home; Mrs.
  Radley seldom if ever crossed the street
  for midmorning coffee break with her
  neighbors and certainly never joined a
  missionary circle.”
• Because of the Radley’s isolated ways,
  there were unknown to the townspeople
  and were often the topic of spiteful gossip.
• After his father died, Nathan is in charge.
• Because he was locked away for thirty
  years, Arthur suffered more than mental
  damage; he was robbed of his childhood
  and his future.
    Symbolism: The Snowman
• It was the first snowstorm of Maycomb
  County since 1885
• Because there was only a feeble layer of
  “soggy snow” (92), Jem & Scout had to
  find other materials to build a snowman.
  With earth, Jem then “scooped up some
  snow and began plastering it on” (95).
• This snowman symbolizes the fact that the
  only way for humans to succeed in
  building civilization is for its races to work
  together.
   Symbolism: The Snowman
• The dark earth = blacks, but as Scout
  says, “Whoever heard of a n*r snowman?”
• Jem then puts white snow over the
  foundation of earth; the whites are on top/
  they dominate
• Without snow, the snowman would not be
  true to its name
• Without earth, it would be a puny lump of
  snow
• The more we work together, the more we
  can accomplish
   Symbolism: The Snowman
• The foundation of the South was laid by
  the hard work of the blacks – slaves
  worked to the make the plantations thrive.
• Without the strength of their labor, there
  would be no South as it appears in TKM;
  without the mud, there would be no
  snowman.

• Snow vs Fire

				
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