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To Kill a Mockingbird. Symbolism. Learning Intentions. To be aware of symbolism and understand its meaning To be able to recognise its use and effect in the novel To be able to demonstrate this awareness in a critical essay. Symbolism - Definition.

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learning intentions
Learning Intentions
  • To be aware of symbolism and understand its meaning
  • To be able to recognise its use and effect in the novel
  • To be able to demonstrate this awareness in a critical essay
symbolism definition
Symbolism - Definition
  • Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colours used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
symbolism is present in society in many forms
Traffic symbols


Symbolism is present in society in many forms:

Activity: Work with your partner and try to think of at least three examples of how symbols are used in society.

literary symbolism
Literary Symbolism
  • Symbolism is used in literature to invest the text with a deeper meaning.

For example

  • Blood is used in “Macbeth to symbolise” guilt
  • The Conch shell is used in “Lord of the Flies” to symbolise civilisation and order on the island.
to kill a mockingbird and symbolism
“To Kill a Mockingbird” and Symbolism
  • Symbolism in “To Kill a Mockingbird” is used frequently, it is subtle and invests the text with greater meaning and significance.
  • Activity – Work with your partner, can you remember the uses of symbolism that we have studied so far in “To Kill a Mocking Bird.”
examples of symbolism from to kill a mockingbird
Examples of Symbolism from “To Kill a Mockingbird”
  • Mockingbird
  • Oak tree at the Radley place
  • The Courthouse
  • The Snowman
  • Roly Poly
  • Gifts in the tree
  • Mad dog
  • Fire at Miss Maudies
  • Sun being high in the sky.
mocking bird
What does it symbolise?

Who are the symbolic mockingbirds in the novel?

Why are they considered to be mockingbirds?

Mocking Bird

Mockingbirds first appear when Jem and Scout are learning how to use their shiny new air rifles. Atticus won’t teach them how to shoot, but he does give them one rule to follow:“Atticus said to Jem one day, "I'd rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but 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.“”


After Tom Robinson is shot, Mr. Underwood compares his death to:

“the senseless slaughter of songbirds,”


And we will find out at the end of the book Scout understands that hurting Boo Radley would be like:

“shootin’ a mockingbird.”

the courthouse sagged in the square
“The Courthouse sagged in the square”
  • What does the courthouse and its condition symbolise here?
the oak tree
In Ch4 What does the Oak Tree and its roots at the Radley place represent?

Why is the Oak Tree particularly significant in the novel?

We will see how what the Oak Tree represents changes at the end of the novel.

The Oak Tree
Two live oaks stood at the edge of the Radley Lot; their roots reached out into the side-road and made it bumpy.”
  • The tree roots are becoming more prominent and have begun to disrupt the road. There’s a connection between the roots spreading out and Boo trying to reach out and make contact with the community.
  • Boo Radley is trying to reach out to the community and feel less isolated.
  • The children are making more and more significant contact with Boo Radley and it becomes increasingly dangerous. It disrupts the community as Boo Radley emerges
sun at noon
In Ch5 When the children are playing the game “One Man’s Family” (in which they pretended to be the Radleys) we are told that “the sun said twelve noon”

What did this symbolise?

Sun at noon
solo activity
Solo Activity
  • Using the notes you have taken write a paragraph in formal critical essay style about Harper Lee’s use of symbolism in “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Start with:

Lee uses subtle symbolism throughout the novel to invest the text with greater meaning and to highlight the main themes...

  • To be completed and handed in for next Monday - 15th November.