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Thread: Symbols' role on the themes of to kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee

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    Symbols' role on the themes of to kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee

    Hello everyone!

    I just read To kill a mockingbird and i have analyzed the themes of the book. However I have a difficulty to see the symbols' roles in the portrayal of the novel's themes. Could someone help me?

    In to kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee, how do the symbols (Mockingbirds, Boo Radley and The mad dog) help to carry on/connect with the themes of the book? WhatH are the symbols roles in the portrayal of the novel's themes?

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    I am assuming you are about fifteen. Ok. Think like this: Atticus gives his children air rifles but tells the that although they can shot at x y and z they cannot shoot at mockingbirds. Why? Because it's a sin. Not enough of an answer for Scout. So it's a sin because they are harmless creatures and it is wrong to hurt an innocent. With me? So far so simples?

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    Radley saves the children from a drunken spite-fuelled Ewell. Radley is a recluse, a timid, damaged individual who is probably unbalanced but is not the malevolent phantom of the children's earlier imagination. Atticus thinks Jem killed Ewell but Tate thinking faster than Atticus realizes it was Boo. Atticus being a decent honest man wants an open investigation but Tate wants to file a report saying Ewell fell on his own knife. He wants to do that because he sees immediately that the recluse could not stand the limelight of the investigation. He wants to protect Radley because he feels he is a harmless man who only wanted to protect the children. Ok?

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    Scout grasps this. She tells her father that forcing Boo to attend an open investigation would be "like shooting a mockingbird" (You can check that quote yourself) She sees a parallel between the bird and Radley: both harmless. Both essentially innocent.
    The bird is referred to several times in the novel. It is a motif.
    Another "mockingbird figure" is obviously Robinson. He was innocent of the crime of which he was convicted.
    Innocence is one of Lee's themes. Themes are ideas. Innocence is an abstract concept. Novelists try to illustrate abstractions through incidents, events and symbols etc. Following me?
    Remember childhood innocence is important in the novel too. Does any of that help?

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    So the bird stands for the idea of innocence. It is a symbol.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Randyha View Post
    In to kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee, how do the symbols (Mockingbirds, Boo Radley and The mad dog) help to carry on/connect with the themes of the book? WhatH are the symbols roles in the portrayal of the novel's themes?
    Actually, mockingbirds or Boo Radley don't connect with the theme of the novel, which is to highlight racism and injustice against black people at that time in US history.

    The novel could have been split in two: an interesting and developing ghost story suddenly takes a U-turn and starts recording proceedings of a case in a court of law.
    But you, cloudless girl, question of smoke, corn tassel
    You were what the wind was making with illuminated leaves.
    ah, I can say nothing! You were made of everything.

    _Pablo Neruda

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    Don't listen to Marbles, Randyha; he's lost 'em.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ennison View Post
    Don't listen to Marbles, Randyha; he's lost 'em.
    Thank you so much for trying to help me understand ennison! I have realized what symbols Lee is using and that they have connections to the themes of the book, For example: mockingbirds -> The fact that evil can destroy you and make you cynical, as many mockingbirds have become, ( coexistence of good and evil).

    However, Im finding it hard to find out how Lee gets helped by these symbols to portray her themes, (The Coexistence of Good and Evil) (The Importance of Moral Education) (The Existence of Social Inequality). Do you understand what I mean? Like in what way does her usage of these symbols help her portrayal of the mentioned themes...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marbles View Post
    Actually, mockingbirds or Boo Radley don't connect with the theme of the novel, which is to highlight racism and injustice against black people at that time in US history.

    The novel could have been split in two: an interesting and developing ghost story suddenly takes a U-turn and starts recording proceedings of a case in a court of law.
    Thank you for trying to help me Marbles, however I do not agree with you on that. There are many connections to the themes, as ennison explained.

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    I'm only going to help you indirectly Randyha. Say I said to you draw peace or draw sorrow or draw justice or draw humility. You might be puzzled for a moment because these are abstractions. If I said on the other hand draw a nose or draw the moon or draw a shoe or draw your hand you would say ok I'll try and you'd pick up the shoe and turn it around and place it where you wanted and draw it but if I insisted that you draw peace you might say ok and you would draw me a ... Dove and you would say I cannot draw peace Ennison because it is a concept but I've drawn this dove to symbolise the idea
    Last edited by ennison; 01-27-2015 at 07:42 PM.

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    In the same way a writer illustrates his/her ideas/concepts through symbols. The reader grasps the idea because it is presented in a concrete form

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    Quote Originally Posted by ennison View Post
    In the same way a writer illustrates his/her ideas/concepts through symbols. The reader grasps the idea because it is presented in a concrete form
    Thank you so much ennison. I understand what you mean. All these symbols Harper Lee is using are there for a reason, to help portray her themes/ideas that are abstract concepts. Have a nice day!!

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    No probs pal. I don't know what specific task your teacher has set you but in parting I'd say this. TKaM is a big book with many ideas from Lee about several topics/ issues/ themes. Clearly Lee's central concern is racism and she has a focus on that but she also has opinions on childhood, education, justice, family relationships, small-town life, tradition, religion, personal bravery and a few other issues too. She illustrates her thoughts on these ideas through character, event, symbol etc. Enjoy.

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