The Theme Of Judgement Through Symbolism And Irony In To Kill A Mockingbird

What we learn in our childhood can stick with us for the rest of our lives. In, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, the children learn a very important lesson, that one should not judge others based on their appearances or stories heard about them. It is reflected by both Tom Robinson and Boo Radley and portrayed through literary devices such as symbolism and irony.

Tom Robinson is an innocent black man, falsely accused of rape. Tom Robinson, who is a Black-American field worker, is allegedly accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell. Almost everyone in Maycomb believes that Tom Robinson is guilty of the crime until the evidence at his trial that proves his innocence. Mayella took advantage of the common prejudice, and falsely accused the young man, saying, “So he come in the yard an' I went in the house to get him the nickel and I turned around a 'fore I knew it he was on me. Just run up behind me, he did”. Tom being a Black-American, is despised and discriminated by the community where almost everyone is a racist and would easily believe the allegations made on 'the black citizen.' When Judge Taylor appoints lawyer Atticus on Tom's defense, most of the citizens in Maycomb disapproves the action. Although concrete evidence proved Tom innocent, he was convicted anyway. Racial discrimination dominating society places all odds against Tom, just because of his appearance. The death of Tom is compared by Mr. Underwood to “the senseless slaughter of songbirds.”

Another circumstance that depicts improper judgment is the case of Boo Radley. Through Boo’s solitary and cryptic character, Scout and her brother, Jem mimic Radley's behavior. Jem provides an absurd description of the character, saying, ‘’Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that's why his hands were bloodstained...” It is not until later in the novel that the children realize that they are completely wrong. As Jem and Scout are walking home, they are attacked by Bob Ewell. Boo witnesses this morbid attack and came to the rescue, slaughtering Bob and saving the kids. Boo shows great bravery and kindness that causes the children to completely change their views on him. As Atticus said to Scout, 'You really never understand a person until you consider thing from his point of view”. It is crucial to listen to people, try to fit and walk in their shoes and reason things from their perspective. He says that it is only after knowing the people well and the circumstances around their actions and behavior that one can make conclusions and judgment about others.

Harper Lee uses several literal devices in the novel to present the theme of judgment, using symbolism, irony, etc. Symbolism has been widely used in the novel, including its title, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. The Mockingbird in the novel symbolizes the innocence and goodness of people. Killing the Mockingbird, therefore, symbolizes destroying, crushing, or bruising the innocence of characters who meet evil. The innocence of several characters in the novel is destroyed, an excellent example being Tom Robinson being accused and convicted for rape that he didn’t commit. Among others, Boo is a typical mocking bird, where Scout and Jem perceive him as weird and absurd despite his bravery and kindness. Lee also uses both dramatic and situational irony in her work to show the contradiction between perceived image and reality about judging others. Situational irony occurs when the outcome is opposite of what is expected. For example, in a society where people are judged on their appearance, Atticus chooses to defend Tom, regardless of the hate. This is unexpected and sets an excellent model for his kids to not judge people by their skin color. In this case, just because Tom is colored doesn’t mean he raped Mayella. Dramatic irony, which is a style that the author uses to inform the reader of something that the characters do not know, has also been applied in presenting the lesson. For example, the reader was aware that Boo was the one who sew Jems pants, reflecting the kindness in his heart and shows that he is not a monster.

Maycomb is a sickening society, with innocent black men being accused of rape, and solitary men accused of being monsters. The children learn a valuable lesson throughout the novel, and that is to not judge others without a solid analysis or evidence. The lesson can also be reflected on by the readers, with Lee’s brilliant use of literary devices. The lessons we are taught as kids will guide us through the rest of our lives. 

09 March 2021
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