Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird dissects the explorative inclination and assumed innocence that all children have and tells a story of how this unique perspective interprets an ugly, racist world. Through the eyes of Scout, a little girl growing up in the deep South in the thirties, we get an oblivious, frustrated, and romantically child-like interpretation of Maycomb, AL. Her father, Atticus, partway through the book tells her that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird and justifies this by means of the bird’s behavior. His allusion to a mockingbird and the significance of the title perfectly represent Scout as the mockingbird, an innocent, conforming girl and the sin of racism potentially seeping its way through social norms in her head and metaphorically killing her innocence.
In Atticus’ quote, he claims that mockingbirds do nothing but make music for us to enjoy. They are not inconsiderate and they are not bothersome. Scout demonstrates this exact type of behavior throughout the book. She stands up for the Cunningham boy in class, she follows along with Dill and Jem’s games even when she gets a role she does not like, and she even goes with Jem to read to Mrs. Dubose even though it is Jem’s fault. Her innocence and caring attitude express themselves through her actions and thought process as you follow along with her story throughout. Much like the mockingbird, with which Atticus definitely correlates the two, Scout provides nothing but happiness.
Racism and a child’s perspective on it is a key element in the book and Atticus tries to explain the concept to Scout many times to no avail. He explains that, essentially, it is a social norm to be prejudiced against black people in the South and to excuse other’s behavior because of that, but tells her not to fall down that same trap. When it does not hit home, he gives her the analogy of the mockingbird, which he knew she would understand, and alludes to racism being the sin and the killer being the social norm. It is a sin for Scout to become prejudiced because, like countless other children, she is innocent and does not know any better. He warns her of falling into that trap while at the same time encouraging her that she must help others too, or at least not harm them.
This warning, hidden slyly in an understandable and meaningful phase, implements into Scout’s mind that racism is a sin and becoming racist would be the equivalent of killing the mockingbird, purging all innocence and kindness from herself. She was not born racist, nobody is, so she cannot succumb to the sin of being racist or letting anyone else, on her watch, do the same. Atticus aims to instill hope in her that not all people are like the Ewells, and behaving as they do would be a sin to herself, while not openly displaying his disdain for such folks.
The hidden expression of Atticus’ quote and thus the title of the book itself aim to purge the ideology of racism and condemn it in a way a child can understand. Scout would not understand why people are racist, so Atticus beautifully uses the quote about a mockingbird to highlight her innocence and relation to the mockingbird, the sin of racism, and the collective social norm of racism that kills mockingbirds like herself.