To Kill a Mockingbird

The Mockingbird Symbol Icon

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

The To Kill a Mockingbird quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Mockingbird. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Warner Books edition of To Kill a Mockingbird published in 1960.
Chapter 10 Quotes

“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.”

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Miss Maudie Atkinson (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Mockingbird
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 25 Quotes

[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.

Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem) (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Mockingbird
Page Number: 273
Explanation and Analysis:
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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.

Related Symbols: The Mockingbird
Page Number: 275-76
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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The Mockingbird Symbol Timeline in To Kill a Mockingbird

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Mockingbird appears in To Kill a Mockingbird. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 10
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
...to shoot their air rifles and tells them that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. This isn’t a normal thing for Atticus to say, so Scout asks Miss Maudie about... (full context)
Chapter 21
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...to feel the same way she did in February, when the street closed up, the mockingbirds were silent, and Mr. Tate told Atticus to shoot Tim Johnson. Mr. Tate returns and... (full context)
Chapter 25
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...about how it’s a sin to kill disabled people. He likened it to senselessly killing songbirds. Scout was confused, since Tom received due process, but then she realized that Tom was... (full context)
Chapter 28
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...they laugh about the silly superstitions they used to believe in. They listen to a mockingbird as Scout trips on a root on their way into the schoolyard. Scout can’t see... (full context)
Chapter 30
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
...Ewell fell on his knife. Scout says she agrees—the alternative would be like killing a mockingbird. Atticus thanks Boo for saving his children. (full context)