Essay On Title Of To Kill A Mockingbird

Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.

The Coexistence of Good and Evil

The most important theme of To Kill a Mockingbird is the book’s exploration of the moral nature of human beings—that is, whether people are essentially good or essentially evil. The novel approaches this question by dramatizing Scout and Jem’s transition from a perspective of childhood innocence, in which they assume that people are good because they have never seen evil, to a more adult perspective, in which they have confronted evil and must incorporate it into their understanding of the world. As a result of this portrayal of the transition from innocence to experience, one of the book’s important subthemes involves the threat that hatred, prejudice, and ignorance pose to the innocent: people such as Tom Robinson and Boo Radley are not prepared for the evil that they encounter, and, as a result, they are destroyed. Even Jem is victimized to an extent by his discovery of the evil of racism during and after the trial. Whereas Scout is able to maintain her basic faith in human nature despite Tom’s conviction, Jem’s faith in justice and in humanity is badly damaged, and he retreats into a state of disillusionment.

The moral voice of To Kill a Mockingbird is embodied by Atticus Finch, who is virtually unique in the novel in that he has experienced and understood evil without losing his faith in the human capacity for goodness. Atticus understands that, rather than being simply creatures of good or creatures of evil, most people have both good and bad qualities. The important thing is to appreciate the good qualities and understand the bad qualities by treating others with sympathy and trying to see life from their perspective. He tries to teach this ultimate moral lesson to Jem and Scout to show them that it is possible to live with conscience without losing hope or becoming cynical. In this way, Atticus is able to admire Mrs. Dubose’s courage even while deploring her racism. Scout’s progress as a character in the novel is defined by her gradual development toward understanding Atticus’s lessons, culminating when, in the final chapters, Scout at last sees Boo Radley as a human being. Her newfound ability to view the world from his perspective ensures that she will not become jaded as she loses her innocence.

The Importance of Moral Education

Because exploration of the novel’s larger moral questions takes place within the perspective of children, the education of children is necessarily involved in the development of all of the novel’s themes. In a sense, the plot of the story charts Scout’s moral education, and the theme of how children are educated—how they are taught to move from innocence to adulthood—recurs throughout the novel (at the end of the book, Scout even says that she has learned practically everything except algebra). This theme is explored most powerfully through the relationship between Atticus and his children, as he devotes himself to instilling a social conscience in Jem and Scout. The scenes at school provide a direct counterpoint to Atticus’s effective education of his children: Scout is frequently confronted with teachers who are either frustratingly unsympathetic to children’s needs or morally hypocritical. As is true of To Kill a Mockingbird’s other moral themes, the novel’s conclusion about education is that the most important lessons are those of sympathy and understanding, and that a sympathetic, understanding approach is the best way to teach these lessons. In this way, Atticus’s ability to put himself in his children’s shoes makes him an excellent teacher, while Miss Caroline’s rigid commitment to the educational techniques that she learned in college makes her ineffective and even dangerous.

The Existence of Social Inequality

Differences in social status are explored largely through the overcomplicated social hierarchy of Maycomb, the ins and outs of which constantly baffle the children. The relatively well-off Finches stand near the top of Maycomb’s social hierarchy, with most of the townspeople beneath them. Ignorant country farmers like the Cunninghams lie below the townspeople, and the white trash Ewells rest below the Cunninghams. But the black community in Maycomb, despite its abundance of admirable qualities, squats below even the Ewells, enabling Bob Ewell to make up for his own lack of importance by persecuting Tom Robinson. These rigid social divisions that make up so much of the adult world are revealed in the book to be both irrational and destructive. For example, Scout cannot understand why Aunt Alexandra refuses to let her consort with young Walter Cunningham. Lee uses the children’s perplexity at the unpleasant layering of Maycomb society to critique the role of class status and, ultimately, prejudice in human interaction.

More main ideas from To Kill a Mockingbird

The Significance Of The Title, 'to Kill A Mockingbird' By Harper Lee

When the author is choosing the title of a novel, they have to make sure it stands out, but is still relevant to the story, it also has to evoke interest in someone who casually looks at the book. It has to hint at what the story is about, but not give it all away. Harper Lee is successful in this, by titling the book, "To Kill A Mockingbird". The title attracts potential readers, as well the symbolism it infers. The children are told that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird by their father, and a neighbor, Miss Maudie, goes more in depth as to why. The legend of the mockingbird which only sings to please others and subsequently, a sense of sin is associated in "killing" the mockingbird has been woven into the plot. The mockingbird is used to represent the characters, and events surrounding them: Tom Robinson, and discrimination against him, the justice system, racism, prejudice, childish innocence, and Boo Radley.

Tom Robinson is a kind, gentle man who, like the mockingbird, has never hurt anyone and only wanted to help Mayella Ewell because he felt sorry for her, and what she had to go through. But the fact that he was black overshadowed his good character, he was incarcerated, and dead the minute Mayella Ewell cried out, falsely, that he raped her. His arrest, and subsequent death, was likened to killing an innocent animal. "Mr. Underwood simply figured it was a sin to kill cripples, be they standing, sitting, or escaping. He likened Tom's death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children." (P. 241)

The justice system is like a mockingbird, as well. It is in place to help society - for the citizen's benefit, however it is possible to be "killed" as it was in Tom Robinson's case. The jury didn't give one thought to all the evidence against a white man, Bob Ewell and convicted Tom Robinson just because his skin was a color different than theirs. However, in the southern United States, especially back in the 193O's, that was something that was expected. If you could blame it on a black person, you...

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