Q:

What does "To Kill a Mockingbird" mean?

A:

Quick Answer

"To Kill a Mockingbird," from Harper Lee's novel of the same name, is a metaphor that means "to hurt someone who has done no wrong." It references a comment in the novel by character Atticus Finch to his daughter Scout.

Know More
What does "To Kill a Mockingbird" mean?
Credit: The Washington Post The Washington Post Getty Images

Full Answer

In Harper Lee's 1960 novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," Atticus Finch tells Scout that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. Scout notes that this is the only time her father has ever told her it is a sin to do something, and she wonders why.

Scout asks family friend Miss Maudie why her father said it was a sin to kill a mockingbird. Miss Maudie answers with one of the novel's most famous quotes:

"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.. but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

Of course, neither Atticus Finch nor Harper Lee are speaking directly about mockingbirds. Instead, they are referring to the racial injustice and cruelty that many African-Americans experienced in the 1930s, when the novel takes place. The metaphor also refers to the treatment of the novel's mentally disabled character, Boo Radley. In both examples, townspeople treat others badly even though the individuals have done nothing wrong, and this behavior is what Atticus Finch considers a sin.

Learn more about Classics

Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is the foreshadowing in "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

    A:

    Harper Lee's use of Gothic elements in "To Kill A Mockingbird," such as the fire and the mad dog, escalates the suspense that faintly foreshadows Tom Robinson’s trial, its outcome and his subsequent tragic death. Other events that are foreshadowed in the novel include the kindness and gentle nature of Boo Radley, the maliciousness and meanness of Bob Ewell and Bob Ewell's attack on Jem and Scout Finch.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How does Scout solve her problem with Walter Cunningham?

    A:

    In "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, Scout convinces Walter Cunningham to call off the mob that goes to the prison to lynch Tomas Robinson by being civil and polite with Cunningham. She also inquiries about his son and asks him to send his son her regards.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How do Jem and Scout's views of Boo Radley change during the book?

    A:

    Jem and Scout Finch's views of Boo Radly change during the book "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee from mysterious and frightening to friendly and understanding. According to Dramatica's analysis of the book, the children change when they realize that Radley has saved their lives; they finally understand his perspective and accept that he is a good person.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How did Jem lose his pants?

    A:

    According to CliffsNotes, in Harper Lee's novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," Jem loses his pants as he flees from a neighbor who is firing a shotgun. Jem gets his pants caught on the fence in the yard, so he takes them off in order to get away quickly.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore