Symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird

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Symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird

A vast amount of symbolism can be found in To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM). Most of it helps explain or further develop on the relationship between black and white people. Several of the symbols are obvious such as the snowman and the fire. Many symbols were less obvious such as the shooting of the dog. Harper Lee incorporated symbols throughout TKAM as an aid in understanding the plot.

The snowman was one of the most obvious symbols in the entire book. Snow has fallen for the first time in a long time in Maycomb. Jem is eager to make a snowman but doesn’t have enough snow; instead he scoops up a lot of dirt and makes a snowman mold. At this point Scout exclaims: “Jem, I ain’t ever heard of a n***** snowman!” (Lee 66) Jem then covers the two lumps of earth with snow. This symbolizes that if black (the dirt) and white (the snow) work together they can achieve and produce more than they can on their own.

The next important symbol was the fire. Mrs. Maudie’s house catches fire during the night while it was snowing. There were several ways one could interpret this. It showed black and white together with the, ashes and snow, smoke and sky, and also foreshadowed an event that the whole town would observe concerning black and white, the Tom Robinson trial.

The shooting of the dog seemed to be the most abstract symbol in the entire book. Jem and Scout first spot the dog who is acting oddly and tell Calpurnia. Calpurnia then alerts the entire neighborhood of a mad dog. Heck Tate then instructs Atticus to shoot the dog since he is “one shot-finch” Atticus shoots and kills the dog. This symbolizes the whole towns eagerness to convict or punish someone who they aren’t sure is guilty of anything. The dog might not be rabid just tired or sick, the town assumes he is rabid though, and acts accordingly. Even Atticus who would be considered the most unprejudiced person in the entire town assumes the dog is “guilty” of being rabid.

Symbolism in TKAM helps one understand what is happening. It also expresses emotion and prejudice in the town. Some of the symbols are harder to find but there seems to be at least one for every event that happens.


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