To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a novel takes place over the course of three years in which Scout Finch learns about life as she grows older. Throughout the book, many themes are revealed. One of the most obvious reccurring themes is the unjust persecution of the innocent. This theme is expressed through the victimization of guiltless characters such as Tom Robinson, Boo Radley, and even the mockingbirds. Tom Robinson is an African American man living in the south in the 1930’s, a time when blacks were treated very poorly by the white population.
Tom was accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white nineteen year old girl. Although there was no evidence against Tom and it was clear that he did not commit the crime, the jury found him guilty of rape. Tom was unjustly persecuted because it was popular belief during that time that all African Americans were liars. Tom Robinson’s conviction expresses the theme of the persecution of the innocent in the sense that he was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit solely because of the color of his skin.
Boo Radley is another character who was victimized because of something he could not control. Boo Radley was emotionally damaged by his harsh father as a young boy and was forced to live as a recluse, never coming out of his house. Boo most likely suffered from a social or mental disorder that made him appear unfriendly and standoffish. Most of the townspeople in Maycomb knew very little about Boo but assumed and made up things about him. People said he went out at night when the moon was down, and peeped in windows… Any stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb were his work… A baseball hit into the Radley yard was a lost ball and no questions asked” (Lee 9). Although the townspeople did not know Boo personally, his necessary reclusiveness gave him the reputation of a menacing sociopath who committed crimes. When Scout and Jem met and got to know Boo Radley, they learned that the reputation was a false one and Boo Radley was a victim of the persecution of the innocent.
Finally, the motif of the mockingbird also represents the unjust persecution of the innocent. When Scout and Jem received rifles for Christmas, Atticus explained to them that they were free to shoot all the blue jays they wanted, but it was a sin to kill a mockingbird. Calpurnia explained further, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy… they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” (Lee 103). Calpurnia’s explanation emphasized the immorality of persecuting someone or something that is innocent and is not capable of defending itself.
The allusion to the title symbolized the unjust persecution of Boo Radley and Tom Robinson, who were both innocent and unable to defend themselves. Throughout To Kill A Mockingbird, the theme of the unjust persecution of the innocent is shown through multiple characters. The theme is exhibited in Tom Robinson’s conviction, Boo Radley’s inaccurate reputation, and the immorality of killing a mockingbird. Through this theme, the novel teaches its readers of the injustice of victimizing those who are blameless.
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