Innocence In To Kill A Mockingbird By Harper Lee



The novel, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, published in 1960, includes many examples of symbolism. Lee uses one of the main characters Arthur Radley (Boo) to symbolize a mockingbird. Arthur is a great example of a mockingbird because he has an astonishingly great character, he is sweet, and he possesses a sense of innocence. According to Miss Maudie, “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” (pg.117). Despite representing a mockingbird, Boo is still seen as a villain by many people in Maycomb. He is misjudged and mistreated by others within the society, because of the rumors people have spread around about him. Despite all the hardship he has to face, he is still sweet, considerate, and does kind things out of the goodness of his heart. He even cares for the well-being of others, like Jem and Scout. We see this when Atticus states, “Someday, maybe, Scout can thank him for covering her up.” “Thank who?”, asks Scout. “Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at the fire you didn’t know it when he put the blanket around you” (pg.96). Moreover, he does sweet and kind things without expecting anything in return. (This is exactly what mockingbirds do). As was previously stated, Boo puts a blanket around Scout’s shoulders. He does this purely on account of seeing her in discomfort. We see his sweet personality once more when he decides to save Jem and Scout from Bob Ewell. After Boo has just saved Jem and is standing in the corner of their living room, Scout says to him, “Hey, Boo.” (pg.362) This reveals that Boo is a kind-hearted person who puts the lives of others over his own, again without expecting anything in return. Though Boo does not know much about the world, he still fights for the ones closest to him. Because of this, Lee compares him to a defenseless/innocent Mockingbird. Since he has the traits of a mockingbird, he needs to be protected from all the negative things that people in Maycomb have to say about him. When Jem is talking to Scout near the Radley tree, Scout thinks to herself, “He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives….We never put back into the tree what we took out of it” (pg.373). This illustrates Boo Radley's sense of innocence because all he wants is to have friends and enjoy life to the fullest. Boo is just happy to have the chance to communicate with others outside the home he has been trapped in so long. He has never had the chance to experience what it is like to be an adult. This is, consequently, why he is portrayed as a child in the book. He has a sense of innocence because of the lack of contact he has had with the outside world. When Miss Maudie is talking to Scout about Boo, she reveals, “I remember Arthur Radley when he was a boy. He always spoke nicely to me, no matter what folks said he did. Spoke as nicely as he knew how” (pg.51). This depicts Boo Radley's sense of innocence because it tells us that being locked up, prevented him from learning new things, and this helped preserve his sense of Innocence. Considering that the people in Maycomb judge others based on appearances, they believed the rumors they heard about Boo. Boo is a great example of what happens to a lot of people in Maycomb. For no apparent reason, he is treated as if he were a monster. When Scout comments, “Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it be” (pg.280). She realizes that Boo is a mockingbird.  She realizes just like Mockingbirds sing and bring joy to others, so does Boo. That being the case, it’s a sin to kill something so lovely, to cause harm to something that has not harmed you. Even in the book, Heck Tate refers to Boo Radley as a mockingbird. Heck Tate can see past all the rumors about Boo Radley given he’s had the chance to get to know him. He knows Boo is a shy person and therefore doesn’t like to be put into the spotlight. That being said when Heck finds out that Boo had stabbed Bob Ewell, he didn’t want Boo to take the blame, because he knew how it could affect Boo.

Finally, because Mockingbirds represent the idea of innocence, killing one would in a sense be like destroying someone’s innocence. When Jem is explaining to Dill what Boo is like, he explains that he is, “about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch...and he drooled most of the time” (pg.16). Even Scout and Jem once misjudged Boo Radley because of the gossip spread throughout Maycomb. Considering that the people in Maycomb never made an effort to get to know Boo, they never had the opportunity to see what he was really like. Therefore, they easily misjudged him and believed all the false information they were being fed. As children, the kids in Maycomb had no other choice but to trust the adults and believe what they were saying about Boo. 

Boo embodies a Mockingbird to a T, since he does kind-hearted things without expecting anything in return. He is just a sweet innocent young boy, who is misjudged and mistreated by many around him. Despite all the negative things he has experienced living in Maycomb. He is still willing to put the lives of others over his own to protect the ones he loves the most.