Tom Robinson Is A Symbol Of The Destroyed Innocent Mockingbird

May 21, 2022 by Essay Writer

In the 1930s, prejudice was an extremely relevant issue regarding the racism that was present throughout society – particularly in Alabama, which is where the novel To Kill A Mockingbird is set. Harper Lee conveys the idea of prejudice to the reader in a variety of forms of symbolism through characterisation. The most powerful examples of symbolism are the use of the term ‘mockingbird’ – which is used to symbolise someone’s innocence being destroyed. The characters used to portray the symbol of the destroyed mockingbird include; Tom Robinson, Boo Radley and Mayella Ewell through social and racial prejudice.

Tom Robinson – who is a symbol of the destroyed innocent mockingbird, represents this through racial prejudice and injustice. Tom was a gentle, companionate man who selflessly helped Mayella Ewell knowing she suffered from her wellbeing. By doing this, Tom was unjustly convicted and murdered for a crime he did not commit. The symbol of the mockingbird was displayed when Tom fled instead of physically reacting when Mayella kissed him. Despite his innocence, the racist community of Maycomb accused an African American man of raping a white girl. Though Tom was guiltless, it was already established that ‘when it’s a white man’s word over the black man’s word, the white always wins’ (page 229). Discounting Tom’s caring actions, Maycomb was able to judge him based on his ethnicity and social class; African Americans were inferior and the bottom of the social hierarchy. By the town being blinded by the racial and social prejudice, Tom undeservingly lost his life which can be compared to the innocent mockingbird being destroyed.

In addition to Tom Robinson, Boo Radley is a symbol of the slain mockingbird as he does not conform in the Maycomb town due to societal prejudice. Radley is alienated from the town due to his reclusiveness and indifferences which led Maycomb and the children to believe that he is a “malevolent phantom” (page 5). Despite the constant rejection he faced, Boo continued to protect and reach out to Jem and Scout by offering gifts in the knothole, fixing Jem’s pants and protecting them from Bob Ewell. Through the caring acts, Boo displayed the characteristics of the innocent mockingbird but as the town gossiped, he was still perceived as a benevolent character. This left Boo Radley as a symbol of the slain mockingbird as he was caring but heavily misunderstood and failed to integrate into a society which leads to his loss of innocence.

Finally, Mayella represents the symbol of the killed mockingbird in a way that she was robbed of her innocence due to social class prejudice. Mayella is part of the ‘white trash’ class which is the lowest hierarchy level in the sense of the white community. As revealed through Atticus’ conversation, the Ewells had been the “disgrace of Maycomb for three generations.” (page 16) which leads to the whites disassociating themselves from due to her social standing. By leaving Mayella to suffer in poverty and neglection from the town, she was robbed of innocence which left her vulnerable and weak. Henceforth, by denying Mayella to live a happy life, she was deprived of innocence due to social class prejudice and is a clear symbol of the slain mockingbird.

Lee effectively uses the symbol of a mockingbird to illustrate damaged people who were undeservedly torn by the prejudice of society. Maycomb being the narrow-minded community destroyed two characters of good, Boo Radley and Tom Robinson through social and racial prejudice. While Mayella Ewell was impoverished of living a full life of happiness due to social injustice.   


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