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Symbolism and Allegory in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

Uploaded by greatfungi on Aug 07, 2006

Symbolism and Allegory in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird by Cleopatra Margaritopoulou

"I'd rather you shoot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."(96)

The above words are what Atticus Finch tells his children after they are given air-rifles for Christmas. In fact, the title of the classic novel by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, was taken from this passage. At first glance, one may wonder why Harper Lee decided to name her book after what seems to be a rather insignificant excerpt. After careful study, however, one begins to see that this is just another example of symbolism in the novel. Harper Lee uses symbolism extensively throughout this story, and much of it refers to the problems of racism in the South during the early twentieth century. Harper Lee's effective use of racial symbolism and allegory can be seen by studying various examples from the book, namely the actions of the children, of the racist whites, and of Atticus Finch.

One of the more effective allegories in the novel is the building of a snowman by Jem and Scout. There was not enough snow to make a snowman entirely out of snow, so Jem made a foundation out of dirt and then covered it with what snow they had. If the snowman was made completely out of snow, Jem's action would not be so significant. Scout is very surprised when she sees the brown snowman and she exclaims: "Jem, I ain't never heard of a nigger snowman." (72), and to this Jem replies: "He won't be black long." (72). Scout's words indicate the strange nature of the snowman which is half-black, half-white. Jem, however did not find it peculiar and he "scooped up some snow and began plastering it on". Gradually Mr. Avery turned white? (73). The symbol of the snowman, like every other symbol in literature, may have various interpretations depending on the reading of the individual. In the specific case the snowman can be seen in two ways.

Firstly, this alteration from black to white can be considered as a merging of the two races into one, without any differences between them to separate them, an equality of black and white people. The change of colour (black to white) suggests the...

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Uploaded by:   greatfungi

Date:   08/07/2006

Category:   To Kill a Mockingbird

Length:   17 pages (3,816 words)

Views:   21881

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