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The Crucial Role of Symbols in To Kill a Mockingbird

The Crucial Role of Symbols in To Kill a Mockingbird

In To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee, themes and central ideas of the novel are emphasized by subtle symbols. Symbols shown throughout the novel not only represent concrete objects but also ideas, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes of the characters. Some symbols even represent more than one thing. Lee’s recurring use of symbols contribute to the underlying themes and ideas of the novel. Lee’s unusual title is a symbol itself and it keeps the reader in anticipation while waiting for a mockingbird to enter the story. Symbols contribute to literature by causing the reader to examine the piece of work and look for meanings other than the literal one. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the use of symbols play a crucial role in the development of the novel.

One of the first major symbols that emerge in the novel is Tim Johnson, a mad dog who is infected with rabies. Just as the dog is infected with rabies, the people of Maycomb County are “infected” with racism (Jones 54). When Tom Robinson is brought to trial, convicted, and ultimately murdered for a crime he did not commit, no one in the town seems to show any compassion or regret for him other than Atticus. Atticus describes the people of Maycomb as “mad dogs that he must confront” by defending Tom (Lee 103). To prove the symbol further, Atticus is the person called upon to shoot and kill Tim Johnson. This action by the people of Maycomb, show their deep trust in Atticus. As Atticus shoots and kills the mad dog, he also shots and kills racism in Maycomb as he steps up and defends Tom Robinson with all of his power. Through this action, Atticus is attempting to protect his neighbors from rabies as he wishes he coul…

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… and Boo are uncanny. It is obvious that Harper Lee chose both of them as her mockingbirds. Lee’s choice of such an unusual title is simply another symbol present in the novel. Lee’s use of symbols re imperative to the development of her novel. The symbols give structure and hidden meaning to the text. As the reader contemplates the use of symbolism, the main theme always emerges: it is a sin to kill a mockingbird.

Works Cited

Erisman, Fred. “The Romantic Regionalism of Harper Lee.” Alabama Review April 26, 1973: 122-36.

Johnson, Claudia. “The Secret Courts of Men’s Hearts:Code and Law in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.” Studies in American Fiction (1991):129-139.

Jones, Carolyn. “Atticus Finch and the Mad Dog.” The Southern Quarterly Summer 1996: 56-63.

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York City, NY: J.B.Lippincott Company, 1960.

The Writing Style and Beliefs of Kate Chopin

The Writing Style and Beliefs of Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin was an extraordinary writer of the nineteenth century. Despite failure to receive positive critical response, she became one of the most powerful and controversial writers of her time. She dared to write her thoughts on topics considered radical: the institution of marriage and women’s desire for social, economic, and political equality. With a focus on the reality of relationships between men and women, she draws stunning and intelligent characters in a rich and bold writing style that was not accepted because it was so far ahead of its time. She risked her reputation by creating female heroines as independent women who wish to receive sexual and emotional fulfillment, an idea unheard of in the 1800s.

In the late nineteenth century, the central belief of the vast majority was that the woman’s job was to support and nurture her husband and children. Women were given no individual identity and were seen only in relation to a family. Women of this time could not vote and therefore had no say in any political matter. Women who wished to comment politically did so with some form of art, including music, painting, and writing (Magill, American 387). According to Frank Magill, when a woman considers herself only as a part of a relationship with someone, then that relationship becomes the central issue of her life (American 386). As a woman whose husband died young, leaving her six children to raise alone, Chopin understands that kind of dependency upon relationships (Magill, American 384). Almost as working out of her own role, she explores in her writing the complexity between men and women.

Readers realize that Chopin’s writing in the 1890s was far ahead of …

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…’The Storm’.” The Markham Review 2.2 (1970): 1-4.

Baker, Christopher. “Chopin’s ‘The Storm.'” Explicator 52.4 (1994): 225-226.

Chopin, Kate. “The Storm.” Literature Across Cultures. 2nd ed. Sheena Gillespie, Terezinha Fonseca, Carol A. Sanger. Boston, Allyn: 1998. 345-348.

—. “A Respectable Woman.” Gillepsie, Fonseca, and Sanger. 342-344.

—. “At the ‘Cadian Ball.” The Awakening and selected stories by Kate Chopin. Ed. Sandra M. Gilbert. New York: Viking Penguin Inc., 1983.


—. “Athénaïse.” Gilbert. 229-261.

Dyer, Joyce. “Gouvernail, Kate Chopin’s Sensitive Bachelor.” The Southern Literary Journal 14.1 (1981): 46-55.

Magill, Frank N., ed. Critical Survey of Short Fiction. New Jersey: Salem Press, 1981. 1132-1136.

—. Magill’s Survey of American Literature New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1991. 386-391.

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