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'To Kill a Mockingbird'

The phrase first appears in the title to Harper Lee’s novel of the same title. It is not clear if this was invented by Harper Lee or if she picked it up from somewhere and used it as the title for her book. http://www.tennesseerep.org/mockingbird.php

A mocking bird is known for its singing. While there is no literal connection in the book to a mocking bird, it has been assigned a great deal of symbolic weightage in the book. It symbolizes innocence and a state of being perfectly harmless. To kill it would appear to be the height of barbarism and an end to innocence. The symbolism is carried in the book a great deal and attaches to a number of characters, all of whom are innocent and many of whom come to harm on account of their contact with evil. The book also deals with racism and the death of an innocent black man whose word is not given much importance and is not able to stand up to the words of a white man. Harper Lee has penned most of the issues she witnessed in her formative years.

Children are born with an innate goodness. Subconsciously, they can distinguish right from wrong. They really do not have to be told to do the right thing. Instinctively children know what is the right thing to do in any circumstances! They look upon the world with childlike innocence and wonder. Most children do not have a shred of evil in their being. But as they grow and observe the world around them and see the evil things that grown-ups do to each other, their sense of right and wrong begins to be dulled. Their innocence is lost and gives up little by little. While this happens to every human being, it happens too soon and too fast for some children. Their innocence is snatched away from them at a tender age, leaving them scarred for life. And once innocence is lost, it can never be regained. Perhaps this is what is referred to metaphorically by Harper Lee as to kill a mocking bird.

Another interpretation given to the phrase is based on the fact that the mocking bird imitates the songs of other birds. Likewise, children imitate the words and actions of their elders. They pick up behavioral cues from the older people that they keep company with. They emulate elders whom they come into contact with. So it would be wrong to pin the blame on children for their utterances and actions as they are not doing it of their own volition, but simply imitating their elders

The novel was published in 1960. It won the Putilizer Prize and is considered as a classic piece of American literature. Harper Lee is a literary phenomenon by herself. A single hit wonder who maintained a stoic silence after her first book. Ever since it was first printed in 1960, the book has never been out of print. Even today, the book sells over a million copies a year in spite of other bestsellers being released regularly.

Atreyee Roy (have 690 posts in total)

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