To Kill a Mockingbird


By Harper Lee


December 7, 2003 4th Hour


In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, the title has a true meaning, which occurs within the characters of the book. These characters are Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. The meaning of the title is that you should not harm an innocent creature, such as a mockingbird.


The literal meaning of the title, To Kill a Mockingbird is not to kill an innocent creature, in this case a mockingbird. Throughout To Kill a Mockingbird, the reader will observe that nearly every character is a mockingbird in several ways or examples. The mockingbird symbolizes innocence and purity. To kill a mockingbird is to destroy that innocence. The end of the book murders every character’s mockingbird. The symbolism of the mockingbird is important because it helps create parallels and connections to the majority of the characters. Throughout the book, a number of characters including Dill, Boo Radley, Mr. Raymond, Tom Robinson, and Jem can be identified as mockingbirds as in innocents who have been injured or destroyed through clashes with evil or cruelty. This connection between the novel's title and its main theme is shown on multiple occasions in the novel: after Tom Robinson is shot, Mr. Underwood compares his death to "the senseless slaughter of songbirds," (pg. 226). Most important, Miss Maudie explains to Jem: "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but ... sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Without this theme, To Kill a Mockingbird would lose the title and the most important idea of the novel.


Boo Radley is a mockingbird in many ways. For example, the only thing mockingbirds ever do is "sing their hearts out for us" (pg. 261) and Boo does nothing but that. He is a mockingbird like this way in that he leaves Scout and Jem gifts. He also saves their lives while risking his own; saving them from Bob Ewell. In addition, this relationship is noticed by Scout: that to hurt Boo Radley is "sort of like shootin' a mockingbird” (pg. 282). Furthermore, he covers them with a blanket during a fire. He is alike a mockinbird singing for people while receiving nothing. Even though Boo Radley’s heart is pure, his innocence is still tarnished by his abusive father and he is “killed” many times.


Another character that is alike a mockingbird is Tom Robinson. For example, when asked if Tom was the man who raped her, she replied and said that he “most certainly is” (pg. 192). The only mistake Tom made was to help Mayella and chop wood for her. Mayella accused Tom of raping her. He is clearly innocent, but still, those around him must sin and kill this mockingbird. In addition, “Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed” (pg. 247). It was extremely unfair for the jury to rule in this manner, but it was the mindset of the time period. He was also a dead mockingbird.


The meaning of the title can be found in many examples. Characters reflect the literal meaning of the title. To kill a mockingbird reflects not killing innocent creatures. The mockingbird inside all the characters is killed in the novel.