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Why is it a Sin to Kill a Mockingbird?

Updated on March 13, 2014
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Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Brock Peters as Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Brock Peters as Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird. | Source

Atticus knew about beauty. He knew what was right. He knew no harm should come to anyone who meant no harm but only gave beauty to those around him.

One wonders about a man like Atticus Finch. He does the right thing, no matter the odds. Here is a man, Tom Robinson, who is disadvantaged with no chance on Earth of being spared from the social order that has predetermined his fate, accused of attacking someone he is off-limits to and not even allowed to lay eyes on--and Atticus chooses to try to save him.

Atticus knew about beauty. He knew what was right. He knew no harm should come to anyone who meant no harm but only gave beauty to those around him.

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.

It's a Sin to Kill a Mockingbird

Atticus tells his son, Jem, that he knows it is inevitable he will shoot birds with his gun, even though Atticus would rather he did not. But he tells him not to shoot mockingbirds. It's a sin to kill a mockingbird. Scout, Atticus' daughter, talks to Miss Maudie about what her father said about mockingbirds.

Your father's right. Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.

Turns out Tom Robinson never did any harm either. In fact, his compassion for Mayella led him to help her. But when she is beaten by her father, Bob Ewell, Tom is blamed. Tom is black and Mayella is white. In the little town of Maycomb, Alabama, this is much too relevant.

Turns out the lynch mob wants to kill a mockingbird. And it seems Atticus knows it's equally a sin not to try to save the mockingbird. He puts that true courage he told Jem about to the test.

Rosemary Murphy as Miss Maudie and Philip Alford as Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Rosemary Murphy as Miss Maudie and Philip Alford as Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird. | Source

Jem and Mrs. Dubose

The kids are treated cruelly because of the community's disdain for Atticus' sense of justice that goes against the backward mores of Maycomb. Possibly no one has more disdain for Atticus than Mrs. Dubose. And Jem is not too happy about her disdain for his father. So Jem takes it out on Dubose's flower bed.

Atticus knows Mrs. Dubose has her own battles. A battle with morphine addiction. Atticus has his fight for justice and Mrs. Dubose is fighting her own demons.

Atticus has his son read to Dubose every day after school. This was a test of true courage for Jem, and Atticus knew it. It's not until Mrs. Dubose passes away that Jem learns he helped her fight her debilitating disease.

It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.

Yes, Atticus. You see it through no matter what.

Do you think To Kill a Mockingbird had a great social impact?

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Boo Radley as a Mockingbird

Tom Robinson is not the only mockingbird in Maycomb. Boo Radley, victim of town gossip, alienated and shut away in his home most of the time, is the subject of fear and suspicion among the townspeople; including Scout and Jem Finch. The children are fearful of Boo Radley, but Scout being perceptive and smart as she is, is able to see through the facade that is gossip.

At numerous times Boo shows his friendliness to the kids, sneaking them gifts, and, in the end, in the culmination of the story, saves Atticus' daughter Scout from the vengeful Bob Ewell who wished to exact payment for his perceived humiliation in court because of Atticus' defense of Tom Robinson.

It turns out Boo was not the monster he was dreamed up to be. Scout sees Boo for who he truly is, she no longer fears him and sees him as an equal, a human being and not an image dreamed up by Maycomb and its backward residents. Fear and hate dream up these things.

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and James Anderson as Bob Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and James Anderson as Bob Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird. | Source

Scout and Mr. Cunningham

Atticus was the kind of lawyer that would accept payment in produce. Mr. Cunningham was the kind of client that could only pay in produce. And Atticus had accepted that from Cunningham.

So, it appears quite strange that Mr. Cunningham ends up leading a lynch mob that is after Robinson. Scout spots Cunningham in the angry crowd and asks him to say hello to his son for her. Cunningham is embarrassed and the crowd disperses.

Scout appeals to Mr. Cunningham's humanity, something her father seems to have revealed to her.

Collin Wilcox played Mayella Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Collin Wilcox played Mayella Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird. | Source

In fact, Atticus has taught his daughter what is true understanding and compassion. She is mature, and certainly more intelligent than the average resident of Maycomb. She sees this fact at an early age.

Atticus makes sure it stays that way. He teaches Scout not to go along with the wrong-headed ways of the masses.

Atticus lets his children make their own decisions, though he puts the lessons right in front of them. He lets them be responsible. And they find the answers.

Atticus is truly moral. Not from religion, but from understanding. He understands true courage and understands what it means to do the right thing against the throngs of the corrupted and confused.

It turns out he loses, like he knew he would. But it turns out the lesson was learned and was not wasted. His children were given this gift of wisdom and the town-folk are left to ponder it. And you never know what might happen once a seed is planted.

Our two mockingbirds had different fates. Robinson's fate was tragic. Boo's actions to save Scout were never brought to light. To do so would be killing the mockingbird. Boo is saved from such a tragedy.

Scout understands why Boo stayed hidden in his house, away from the corruption and hatred of the crowd outside. He was kind and caring, neither hateful nor suspicious, an outcast among those who live by divisiveness and brutality. He saved Scout from that brutality and he was spared too.

It is a sin to kill a mockingbird.

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    • NateB11 profile image
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      Nathan Bernardo 3 years ago from California, United States of America

      Thanks, Glenn. It definitely would be good reading in all schools; give students an understanding of the fundamentals of doing the right thing, justice and standing alone and up for that sort of thing. Glad you stopped by.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I remember my parents brought me to see To kill a Mockingbird. That had to be about 50 years ago. I was too young to understand the meaning behind story at the time. But later in life I read the book and got it. I was surprised that it was not required reading in high school. It should've been. Your hub is very well-done and complete. Great work!

    • NateB11 profile image
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      Nathan Bernardo 3 years ago from California, United States of America

      You're right about that, Treathyl. I have strong doubts Capote would let someone else take credit for this kind of work. That's pure rumor, I don't believe it.

      J.S. Matthew, thanks for the support and kind words. Yes, Mockingbird is a great work, I'm sure it's encouraged many people to seek and learn about social justice. Thanks for reading and sharing.

    • cmoneyspinner1tf profile image

      Treathyl FOX 3 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Ha ha! Yeah right NateB11. AS IF ... Mr. Capote would let her get credit for a book like this! Not unless she was blackmailing him about being a homosexual or sumthin! Yeah yeah! I just used the "h" word in a sentence. I dare somebody to try to take credit for it. :)

    • J.S.Matthew profile image

      JS Matthew 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Very well done! I haven't read this since high school but I remember how much I enjoyed it. This was one of the reads that got me interested in studying Race Relations and Social Injustice. Great job! Up and shared.

      JSMatthew~

    • NateB11 profile image
      Author

      Nathan Bernardo 3 years ago from California, United States of America

      I read that too, Treathyl, that it was the only book that Harper Lee ever wrote; some claim the story was actually written by Truman Capote because Lee was his secretary, but I'm not so sure about that. It's a great story, for certain. No doubt about that.

    • cmoneyspinner1tf profile image

      Treathyl FOX 3 years ago from Austin, Texas

      50 years? Yeah. That makes sense because I'm 58 and I remember watching the movie which starred Gregory Peck with my late sister, when I was younger. I was probably about 8 years old. It made quite an impression on my young mind. A little trivia. I read somewhere that this was the only book Harper Lee ever wrote. But what a book! Can I get an “Amen!”?

    • NateB11 profile image
      Author

      Nathan Bernardo 3 years ago from California, United States of America

      Thanks, Gable. I'm glad you liked it.

    • Gcrhoads64 profile image

      Gable Rhoads 3 years ago from North Dakota

      you've made me want to read the book again. Wonderfully done, Nate.

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