Mockingbirds symbolize innocence and beauty in the novel. Atticus and Miss Maudie tell Scout and Jem that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird because these birds cause no harm to anyone or anything—they just sing. In doing so, they make the world a better place. Because of this, mockingbirds are pure creatures, and killing them would be, in contrast, an act of senseless cruelty. Several characters in the novel can be seen as mockingbirds, especially Tom Robinson and Boo Radley, as they are fragile, kind, and moral individuals who are misunderstood by their prejudiced society—and, in Tom’s case, ultimately destroyed by it.
The Mockingbird Quotes in To Kill a Mockingbird
“Remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.
“Your father's right,” she said. “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 corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
[Jem] was certainly never cruel to animals, but I had never known his charity to embrace the insect world.
“Why couldn't I mash him?” I asked.
“Because they don't bother you,” Jem answered in the darkness. He had turned out his reading light.
Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.