Symbolism and Racism in Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" | Free Essay Example

Symbolism and Racism in Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Words: 677
Topic: Literature

Exploring the issues of the racisms in the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” cannot be separated from the use of symbolism since symbolism has been used as the vessel by which racism is expressed in an indirect manner that allows the reader to explore the meaning behind such symbols, Harper Lee may not have had a lot of freedom of expression at the period that she wrote the book, hence the decision to use symbolism to touch on the issues of racisms a subject that was controversial at the time(Adam, 2005).

The Character by the name of Atticus Finch talks to his children after they had been given rifles for Christmas, he tells them that he would rather that they would shoot at cans of tin in their backyard rather than going after birds, he knows that he can’t restrain his children form shooting birds, he tells them that they can shoot all the bluejays they desire but he reminded his children that shooting the mocking bird was wrong, he likened it with sin.

It is likely that the origin of the title “To Kill a Mockingbird” was taken up from this passage. This passage is the beginning of the use of symbolism that greatly touches on the issues of racism(Adam, 2005).

Taking the incident that of the children trying to make a snowman, it turns out that the children, Jem and Scout did not have enough snow to make a complete snowman, so they used dirt to do the foundation of the figure and used snow to cover the top bit. This symbolism can be put into two interpretations; one interpretation is where snow is used to cover the dark dirt, which can be seen as the author of the book trying to portray that there is no difference between the black and the white race, that they may look different outside but their inside is the same and that a human being has no difference from another regardless of physical appearance.

These two perspectives can be verified when Atticus tells Jem that he was not sure of how he would have dealt with the situation and tells Jem that now he was not worried about how Jem would have turn out in life. Later when there is a fire in Miss Maunde Atkinson’s house, it can be taken as the level of prejudice that is in the county of Maycomb because the fire melts the snow and leaves the foundation that was made of mud, this symbolism can be seen as the conception in Macomb County, that the white society cannot be compared with the black community that they cannot exist together.

The symbolism of the snowman can be used to depict the issued of miscegenation, that marriages between whites and blacks cannot be allowed that even a child of mixed race diminishes the value of the white race hence a mixed-race child is as good as a black child (Harper the original author, 1926).

We see Jem and scout having an encounter with Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, in this encounter, there is a lot of symbolism depicting racism, we see Mrs. Dobose hulling insults to the children by describing their father as no better than niggers and trash that he worked for, in her utterances we see that these were not her views alone, they represented the rest of the county of Maycomb.

When Jem and Scout were going by the house later in the day we see Jem snatching scout’s baton and running while flailing in a wild manner upwards on the steps into the from the yard of Mrs.Dubose, cutting the tops off every bush of camellia that belonged to Mrs.Dubose. Incidentally, camellia flowers are white, which could symbolize the elimination of the kind of prejudice that the white community in Maycomb County had against the black community (Adam, 2005)

Jem and Scout’s visit to Mrs.Dubose was a symbol, of the two children trying to change the ways of the citizens of may comb that had a prejudice against the black society.


Adam. S. Readings on ”To Kill a Mockingbird,”. SanDiego: Greenhaven Press, (2005).

Harper.L. To Kill a Mockingbird. (1926).