As well as the ideas regarding the quote to which it is named, there are many other examples of symbolism and reflectionism that are used throughout ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. A primary example of this reflects around the alleged ‘crime’ and trial of ‘Tom Robinson’, a young and powerful field hand working under ‘Link Deas’. Early in the novel, we learn that he has been accused of raping a young white women, ‘Mayella Ewell”.
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The details are unclear throughout the early stages, as we must follow ‘Jean-Louise “Scout” Finch’s understanding of the events and, as a young child, she struggles understanding the alleged idea of rape and torture, naturally predisposed to follow her father’s guidance; Atticus Finch is the defense attorney representing Tom Robinson in Maycomb court lawhouse. Eventually, the reader discovers why the details have been so unknown and ‘clouded’ throughout the novel, and that is because they essentially don’t exist. When Scout, her brother ‘Jem’ and a childhood friend ‘Dill’ manage to enter the courthouse on prosecution day, they and many ‘Maycombians’ discover the truth, no matter how they may ignore it. Upon discussing the details of the trial with several witnesses, including ‘Robert Ewell’, Mayella’s father, and Mayella herself, it is clear that Tom Robinson did not commit this crime. Bob and Mayella’s testimonies are confused, details are ‘released’ and ignored between them and a clear reasonable doubt hangs heavily on the courtroom. In addition, Tom Robinson could not have inflicted the injuries, as he has a crippled left arm. Eventually Tom has to explain what really happened, and upon being asked why he ran from the ‘Ewell’ property after Robert discovered Mayella trying to seduce him, he said this; “If you were a ni**er like me, you’d run too”(261).
All of these items show the reader that Tom Robinson is the symbolic representation of racism and slavery in the South during the 1930’s. As a young man, Tom just barely missed being involved in slavery, yet he still feels the weight of its connotations and the racism upon him in every moment. His arm being crippled by a cotton gin as a child; this represents that the scars of slavery and racism will never truly heal. It also is an example of how he is powerless, particularly against ‘white America’. He is a valiant worker and has a growing family but being disabled and black means that ‘his time will come’. Although there are people who support and agree with him, like the Finches, Link Deas and the surrounding black community, they can never outweigh the injustice that has always faced him. He represents the lowest of American society, despite being one of the strongest, most respectful and hard working members of it. In the end, when he tries to escape and scale the fence of his prison, he is killed brutally, showing that society will never truly let go of racism and prejudice, and it can never be escaped. In addition, the fact that he would have made it if he had had two working arms shows that people like him in the South were doomed from the beginning, and that no amount of hard work and purity can shine above the oppression they face in society. Another example of symbolism in the novel, is through the character of the Finch children’s best friend, ‘Dill Harris Baker’. In chapter one and two, we are introduced to Dill just as the Scout and Jem would be, with childish interest, confusion and intrigue.
We grow to know Dill as time comes to pass, and he becomes an essential member of life to both of the Finch’s. Despite his mysterious origins and small, weak stature; in the first several chapters, when Jean Louise and Jem are the youngest, he is a staple character, travelling back to his own home in ‘Meridian’ once the school year begins. Scout reminisce of their friendship as children before detailing the beginning of the school year. “Thus, we came to know Dill as a pocket Merlin, whose head teemed with eccentric plans, strange longings and quaint fantasies”(10). This shows us that in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Dill is representative of childhood. Small and quaint, he is one of the most important and pure characters for when the children are youngest. He is the most eccentric and purely happy members of the three titular characters, and is extremely innocent. Even showing this through several moments.
When Scout becomes annoyed at one point, she beats him up, and still he returns to her and Jem, wide eyed and eager to continue, not even aware of the general social constraints of friendship. In most moments he is simply happy to be with them and they are happy to be with him. This goes on for a long while, through some of the trials and tribulations of childhood, strained in moments of weakness and strong in moments of purity. And the decision for him to return to Meridian every school year shows that in some capacity, both Jem and Scout are being forced to grow up by entering and continuing their schooling. For most of the center of the story, Dill is not with them, representing the struggles and pains of growing, and how at moments your childhood must be left behind. However, by the end of the story, he has returned, the group desperate to see each other. This shows us that their childhood may return, although that doesn’t mean that they haven’t matured. These are two pieces of evidence that show the reader moments of symbolism in Harper Lee’s, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.
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