Literary Devices In To Kill A Mockingbird

Introduction to “To Kill a Mockingbird”

A famous novel, that was written by Harper Lee, published in 1960. It is considered as one of the great American novels from the 20th century. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in the year 1961, which is a very prestigious award.

The story happens in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression in the 1930’s. The main character and narrator of the book is a six year old girl namely Jean Louise Finch. The book covers three years of Scout’s childhood. He tells the story of her father, who was a lawyer and defended a black man named Tom Robinson, who was wrongly accused of a crime.

Through portraying the story of the Scout, the novel explores many important issues like racial injustice, morality, gender roles and good versus evil. Though it discusses some serious themes, the book also has humor and warmth through Scout’s point of view as a child. It gives an interesting perspective on life in the South.

Summary of “To Kill a Mockingbird”

The book begins by introducing the Finch family – Atticus, Scout and Scout’s older brother Jem. Their mother died when Scout was very young. Atticus is a well-respected lawyer in Maycomb. Atticus is asked to defend a black man named Tom Robinson who has been accused of raping a young white woman named Mayella Ewell. Many people in the town are racist against black people, even though Atticus decides to defend Tom to the best of his abilities because he is innocent.

Scout, Jem and their new friend Dill become interested in a mystery man who lives in the neighborhood named Arthur “Boo” Radley. They try to get Boo to come out of his house because the local rumors remark he never comes outside. When they try to peek in his windows, Boo’s brother yells at them and threatens with a gun.

At the trial for Tom Robinson, Atticus gives very strong evidence that Tom could not have committed the crime he is accused of. However, the all-white jury still votes that Tom is guilty. Sadly, this shows that some people could not get past their racial prejudices even when a black man was clearly innocent.

Subsequently, Tom is shot and killed while trying to escape from prison. Bob Ewell, Mayella’s angry father, tries to get revenge on Atticus by attacking Jem and Scout. In the struggle, Boo Radley saves the children and stabs Ewell when he tries to hurt them. At the end, Scout finally meets Boo and sees that he is a kind person, not the scary person that rumors made him out to be.

Themes in To Kill a Mockingbird

Racial Injustice: One big theme is how black people were treated so unfairly in the South during this time period. For example, Tom Robinson is convicted because of his race even though he is innocent.

Good vs Evil: The book shows how people have to decide to do what’s right or wrong. Atticus shows goodness in defending Tom. But Bob Ewell shows evil in falsely accusing Tom due to racism.

Innocence: Scout’s story shows how children grow up and lose some innocence as they start to see the unfairness and evil in the world. But keeping some of their innocence can help them have hope.

Gender Roles: Scout is a tomboy which means she likes some things that were considered for boys only. She challenges typical roles for girls.

Social Classes: The book shows how unfairly Maycomb treated those of lower social classes or incomes. Atticus believed in treating all people equally.

Main Characters in “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Jean Louise “Scout” Finch: Scout is the 6 year old narrator of the story. She is smart, curious, outspoken and tomboyish. Scout matures over the 3 years of the book’s story.

Atticus Finch: Atticus is Scout’s dad. He is a wise single father who teaches his children to be kind, empathetic and stand up for what’s right.

Jem Finch: Jem is Scout’s older brother. He is on the edge of his teenage years in this book. He looks up to his father Atticus as a role model.

Boo Radley: Boo is a mysterious neighbor who stays hidden in his house. The kids imagine he is a monster but he ultimately saves them from Bob Ewell.

Tom Robinson: Tom is a kind black man who is falsely accused of a crime because of racist prejudices in the town.

Bob Ewell: Bob is an angry and abusive man who falsely accuses Tom. He represents ignorance and meanness.

Writing Style

The story has been narrated from the child point of view, which makes the novel unique and approachable for the young readers. The narration of the Scout contains humor, honesty and an innocent perspective. Lee vividly describes the slow paced Southern town of Maycomb. The details help the setting come to life. The characters feel real and complex. The characters like Scout, Atticus and Boo Radley are memorable personalities to whom the reader connects with emotionally. Harper Lee uses straightforward words that match the voice of Scout. This makes the book engaging and easy to comprehend for younger readers.

Literary Devices Used in “to kill a mockingbird”

1- Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is when the author hints at something that will happen later in the story.

“Jem gave a reasonable description of Boo: 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 – if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off. There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time.”

In the novel, Jem’s wild story about Boo Radley sets up hints about Boo’s character and future events. He describes Boo as a scary figure with bloodstained hands. His frightening appearance suggests that there is more to learn about him. This foreshadows that Boo will play a significant role later and that there might be surprising truths behind the rumors. It hints that Boo’s real story might be different from the scary tales.

2- Simile

A simile uses “like” or “as” to compare two different things using figurative language.

“In Alabama, an old Negro’s life is figuratively almost as cheap as a gallon of kerosene.”

The comparison of an old Black man’s life to the cost of kerosene uses a simile to highlight racial injustices. Saying a life is “almost as cheap as a gallon of kerosene” shows how little value society placed on Black lives, which compares something invaluable to something inexpensive. This simile starkly illustrates the harsh reality of racial inequality.

3- Metaphor

A metaphor makes a direct comparison between two things using figurative language.

“Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.”

Atticus uses a metaphor about walking in someone else’s shoes to teach a lesson about empathy. He means that you can’t truly understand someone until you see things from their perspective. The idea of “walking in someone’s shoes” is not about literally wearing their shoes. Instead, it suggests imagining living their life and facing their challenges to better understand their actions and feelings. This metaphor helps to explain the importance of empathy and understanding others.

4- Personification

Personification gives human traits or qualities to inanimate objects.

“Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it.”

The description of Maycomb as a “tired old town” gives the town human qualities, which is an example of personification. The writer’s presumption that the town is “tired” makes it seem like it is not just old in years, but also weary from all that has happened there, much like a person might feel after a long, hard life. This way of describing Maycomb helps to set the mood for the story, which makes the town feel more alive and giving readers a sense of it’s character.

5- Irony

Irony is when the opposite of what you expect happens.

“‘Yo’ feyther’s right,’ [Calpurnia] murmured. ‘Did Mr. Cunningham have anything to do with the mob?’
Jem shook his head. ‘He did the first time he heard about it, but he hasn’t been in sight since. I wonder where he was Saturday night?’ ‘At home takin’ care of his chickens,’ said Atticus dryly.”

Atticus’s comment about Mr. Cunningham “takin’ care of his chickens” is ironic. Irony occurs when words express something contrary to truth or someone says the opposite of what they really feel or mean, often in a humorous or sardonic way. Here, Atticus suggests Mr. Cunningham was simply at home, which implies a tiresome activity, while it is understood that Mr. Cunningham was involved in something far more serious. The irony lies in contrasting the normalcy of taking care of chickens with the tension and potential violence of the mob situation highlighting the difference between Mr. Cunningham’s public actions and private life.

Literary Devices In To Kill A Mockingbird
Literary Devices In To Kill A Mockingbird

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