How is Tom Robinson a mockingbird?
The phrase "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" refers to intentionally and pointlessly destroying something that does no harm. The mockingbird is a songbird, not a pest, and it isn't a game bird. Killing a mockingbird serves no purpose, and therefore is an act of unnecessary cruelty. When the jury convicts Tom Robinson of rape despite the absence of physical evidence and despite Atticus’s compelling defense, the jury is guilty of the same unnecessary cruelty. The jury specifically, and the town of Maycomb generally, destroy a good person who has never done harm simply because of the color of his skin. Though Tom is the symbolic mockingbird at the heart of the novel, he is not the only character who fits that description. Heck Tate also specifically describes Boo Radley as a mockingbird, in that he is a harmless person who is the victim of pointless cruelty. Unlike Tom Robinson, Boo Radley is not destroyed, though he does suffer greatly.
What does the rabid dog Atticus shoots symbolize?
In Chapter 11, Atticus shoots a mad (rabid) dog in the street. This episode serves two important purposes in the novel. Before the incident with the dog, Scout and Jem saw their father as old, reserved, and not particularly powerful. When Scout and Jem learn that their father is known as the best shot in the entire county, they learn to see Atticus with a greater sense of respect. In a larger symbolic sense, the dog, because it has rabies, is a dangerous threat to the community. In shooting the dog, then, Atticus is trying to protect the community from its most dangerous elements. Similarly, in defending Tom Robinson, Atticus tries to protect the community from its most dangerous, racist tendencies. Later in the book, in Chapter 22, Miss Maudie tells Jem about Tom Robinson’s trial, “I simply want to tell you that there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father’s one of them.” Atticus’s killing of the dog and defense of Tom Robinson both reflect that he is willing and able to take on things that the rest of Maycomb is unequipped to face.
How did Jem break his arm?
In the first sentence of the novel, Scout says that Jem broke his arm. She starts to explain what happened but says that she needs to go back and provide the necessary context in order for the story to make sense. The rest of the novel is the background context for Jem’s broken arm. At the end of the novel Bob Ewell, who has suffered as a result of Atticus’s defense of Tom Robinson, attacks Jem and Scout on their way home from the Halloween pageant. Jem breaks his arm in the struggle. The story of a broken arm serves as a narrative device, bookending the entire novel with Scout’s telling of the story. While initially the reader might assume Jem broke his arm through innocent childhood games, by the end of the novel we understand the darker, more complicated truth behind the accident.
What is the significance of the gifts Boo Radley leaves in the knothole?
In the early chapters of the book, Jem and Scout find several small items, ranging from sticks of gum to a pocket watch, left by Boo Radley in the knothole of a tree on the Radley property. These gifts are the first of several kindnesses that Boo extends to the children, ultimately culminating in Boo killing Bob Ewell to protect Jem. The gifts also represent one of the ways that Boo tries to engage with the world around him without giving up the secrecy and privacy that he requires. Despite his reclusive nature, Boo engages the Finch children in a more generous and kind way than many of the other adults that they encounter. But because of Boo’s limitations, his interactions must take a remote form.
Why does the jury find Tom guilty?
The jury’s decision to convict Tom Robinson for a crime he clearly did not commit plagues Jem (and many readers) as an intolerable miscarriage of justice. The most obvious reason justice isn’t served is because the jury’s overwhelming racism prevents Tom from getting a fair trial. Another reason the jury finds Tom guilty is because both Mayella Ewell and her father, Bob, both perjured themselves on the stand. In addition to the presumption of an impartial jury, the justice system operates on the assumption that witnesses will tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” after being sworn in to testimony. But both Mayella and Bob lied rather than admit that Mayella tried to kiss Tom. Tom’s race, combined with the Ewells’ lies, proved enough for the racist jury to find Tom guilty, even in the face of overwhelming evidence of Tom’s innocence.
What role does Calpurnia play in the family and in the novel?
Calpurnia is a surrogate mother to Jem and Scout who teaches them about good manners, hard work, and honesty. She takes care of the family’s needs, and Atticus trusts her unequivocally. She is also the narrator’s window into Maycomb’s African American community. She takes the children to her church one Sunday, and, because of this, Scout and Jem can sit in the “colored” balcony during Tom Robinson’s trial. She helps Atticus comfort Tom’s wife, Helen, and she knows how to read and write, which is uncommon in her community.
Why is Dill an important character?
Charles Baker Harris, the boy also known as Dill, is an important foil to Jem and Scout. His imagination kindles theirs, and his youthful enthusiasm contrasts with Jem’s budding serious maturity. As children, Dill and Scout pretend that they are engaged to be married. He visits Maycomb every summer, and as it becomes clearer that his own family is erratic and insecure, readers understand that the Finches and his Aunt Stephanie are, in fact, his true family. He represents both childhood innocence and friendship.
What does Mrs. Dubose teach Scout and Jem?
Although she is a mean, racist neighbor, Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose teaches the children a lesson in courage. As Jem reads aloud to her every day for a month—a punishment for destroying her camellia bushes after she harshly criticizes Atticus—she weans herself from her morphine addiction by refusing her medicine for longer and longer each day. When she dies a month later, Atticus tells Jem that she was “the bravest person [he] ever knew.” The whole episode teaches Jem and Scout that people are not always what they appear to be and that even despicable people can have heroic qualities.
Why does Dolphus Raymond hide Coca-Cola in a brown paper bag?
Dolphus Raymond, a white man who prefers the company of African Americans, uses a brown paper bag as a theatrical prop to act like a drunkard. He has mixed-race children and lives among the African American community as one of them. During the trial, when Dill feels sick, Mr. Raymond explains to Scout and Dill that he pretends to be drunk all the time so that people can explain away his behavior. “It helps folks if they can latch onto a reason,” he says. He admits that he even staggers sometimes to reinforce his charade.
How does Maycomb react to Tom Robinson’s death?
The citizens of Maycomb react to Tom’s death in many different ways. The African American community feels angry and upset, but they cannot show it in public. Many racist white people feel that justice was done because a black man is always guilty, no matter what. Some white people are ashamed and sincerely saddened by the injustice done by the jury. The editor of the local newspaper feels angry because Tom was a “cripple” and should not have been shot. Bob Ewell is satisfied because his lie worked, and Jem is furious and incredulous.
What happens on Scout and Jem’s walk home from the harvest pageant?
When Jem and Scout set off through the woods to the high school for the harvest pageant, they begin a journey that is “long” in a figurative sense, for the events that occur that night will change their lives forever. As Jem and Scout walk home that night, two figures emerge from the shadows, each with their own intentions. First, Bob Ewell violently attacks Jem and Scout, but then Boo Radley appears and saves the children. This climactic night unites the novel’s two major plot lines: the mystery of Boo Radley and the second tragic outcome of the trial—another senseless death.
Why does Atticus take Tom Robinson’s case knowing that he’ll lose?
Atticus accepts the case out of personal integrity and a firm belief that the racist ways of the deep South will slowly but surely change over time. He sees this trial as an opportunity to help make that historic shift of attitude, even if it is just a small step. When he takes the case, Atticus assumes that they will lose the trial, but he believes they have an excellent chance in the appeal process. The people of his community trust him to do the right thing, and he does. After the trial is over, Atticus feels discouraged by the outcome, but he is not beaten by it.
Why does Mayella Ewell lie on the witness stand?
Mayella Ewell lies on the witness stand because she is afraid of her father, Bob Ewell, and because she is humiliated by her own attraction to Tom Robinson. She tells the jury that Tom beat and raped her when, in fact, it was her father who beat her when he saw her hugging and kissing an African American. Her father told her what to say while on the stand and likely threatened to hurt her more if she refused. She told the jury what they wanted to hear, so it was an easy lie to tell. She lied to protect herself.
What qualities make Atticus a good father?
Although Atticus is an “old” father according to Scout, he dearly loves his children, Scout and Jem, and offers them a role model of integrity, wisdom, trust, and honesty. He lets them be children by giving them their freedom, but he also insists that they work hard and take care of each other. Atticus provides a good home and a strong caretaker in Calpurnia. He is a pillar of the community who is elected to the legislature every term unopposed. He values education and justice above all else, and he is open-hearted and open-minded.
Why does Aunt Alexandra move into the Finch household?
When the trial is imminent, Aunt Alexandra shows up at the Finch home and announces that she’s there to stay for the benefit of Jem and Scout. She and Atticus agree that Jem and Scout may need round-the-clock supervision during the public spectacle, and she believes that the children need more exposure to the propriety and traditions of their upstanding family. Aunt Alexandra also believes that Scout needs to be taught to be a perfect Southern lady who knows how to wear a dress, serve tea, and converse with other women.