Good And Evil: “How to Kill A Mockingbird” Harper Lee

In the town of Maycomb, fights are fought, lessons are learned, and lives are changed. Throughout it all, we witness the trial and prosecution of a black man in a land of white, and the struggle of what is right and wrong. Therefore, the theme in the novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is “the coexistence of good and evil.” Lee uses a variety of symbols, imagery, and figurative language to demonstrate the moral nature of human beings- whether people are essentially good or evil.

Lee fills her novel with a variety of symbolic images. For example, when Atticus tells Jem it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird, Miss Maudie says, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncobs, 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 119). This shows that to kill a mockingbird is to kill innocence. This is because it is a symbol for Jem and Scout childhood innocence, and how it was killed.

As a result, Lee uses a mockingbird to represent the children’s innocence, which is good, that is destroyed by evil. Lee uses vivid imagery to help us imagine the Radley Place as a spooky, bad place. For example, the narrator, Scout, talked about it saying, “A Negro would not pass the Radley Place at night, he would cut across the sidewalk opposite… Radley pecans would kill you. A baseball hit into the Radley yard was a lost ball.” (Lee 11) This shows that the place was a horrible place, albeit a myth or not. This is because the “malevolent phantom” (Lee 10) that lived inside, Boo Radley, who was blamed for everything that went wrong in the town. As a result, by using imagery, the author gives the Radley Place an evil vibe, although we learn later on that maybe it wasn’t so bad.

Finally, Lee employs a variety of figurative language devices to communicate her theme. For example, when Scout noted, “Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.” (Lee 323). This metaphor shows that however he was convicted, Tom Robinson would never win in the end after this accusation. This is because he was a black man, while Mayella was white. It didn’t matter what he said, or even what the proven truth was, in this time period, he was in trouble, whether he did it or not. As a result, we can see the good and evil of men from this. Tom Robinson was presumably, to our eye, good, while the evil of men refused to listen to him, convicted and killed him because of his race.

In conclusion, we can see that the theme, “the coexistence of good and evil” holds true when considering the types of symbols, imagery, and figurative language used by Lee. Today we live in a society where the question of good and/or evil is constantly tested. People are still judged due to race, though not as publicly or dramatic as in the time of the book. Lee reminds us of the injustice of the Civil Rights Era, and how the morals of men can be distorted. She shows of innocence being shattered and how cruel the world really can be. However there is always good to shine through, even if said good is masked or hidden at times.

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