The Theme of Innocence in To Kill A Mockingbird Book Review

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In order to understand a book, or any piece of literature, you have to dig deeper into the book’s true meaning. There are many books that can be understood by simply reading them, but there are some books where this task isn’t so easy. In some books, the plot and subplots that are intertwined together are just too complicated to understand by simply reading them. In order to truly understand the context of the text, we must understand the themes of the story. To Kill A Mockingbird is one of those stories where you have to dig deeper. There are many themes that Harper Lee touches on in To Kill A Mockingbird, but there are only a few that are really relevant in the story.

The themes of innocence, social hierarchy, and courage are portrayed throughout most of the book, and the understanding of these themes are crucial to the understanding of the book as a whole. We see the entirety of To Kill A Mockingbird through Scout’s eyes. Scout is a young girl that we see grow during the Great Depression. She faces conflicts in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama, as her father defends a black man in court. Scout and the all the other characters in To Kill A Mockingbird explain the themes, whether through quotes or context clues.


The theme of innocence is portrayed in many things in To Kill A Mockingbird with many of the characters displaying it or not having it at all. A large portion of the book is centered around the theme of innocence, with everything from Scout and Jem growing up to the mockingbird. The mockingbird resembles innocence. There are portions of the book where it is talked about, such as when Scout and Jem get their air rifles.

“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.” (Lee 119)

If we observe this quote, we can truly understand it. At first glance, it seems to simply be about mockingbirds. However, this is not the case. If we think of the context and look at the novel as a whole, we understand the actual “mockingbirds” are the black people in town. Tom Robinson displays what the mockingbird is. A mockingbird is a person that doesn’t do anything wrong, but still gets convicted of a crime.
Although Atticus actually manages to prove the innocence of Tom Robinson, the white jury still refuses to declare the innocence of a black man over a white, . . . Through its decision, the town essentially kills a mockingbird. Tom Robinson was a man who did no harm to others but instead actually helped others out of kindness. . . (tokillamockingbirdquotes.org/to-kill-a-mockingbird-themes)

Another thing to touch on is “standing in someone else’s shoes.” Atticus states that “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view” (Lee 39). Atticus, in this sense, is correct. Atticus is trying to make Scout understand that you have to consider both sides of the argument, and this is exactly what Atticus does in the courtroom. Scout never considered things from Boo’s point of view. Scout, Jem, and Dill were always scared of the Radley home. They were scared because they were innocent. Scout had always thought that way, simply because she was a child. Children always have a sense of fear, or a sense of mystery. They would make assumptions of something because they are innocent. Their innocence makes them not prepared for the real world, and this means that the children have to realize things from all points of view. We see this sort of childhood innocence within the first few pages of the book, with Boo Radley being considered a ghost. Not only are Jem and Scout scared of the Radley place, many of the other children are as well.

Inside the house lived a malevolent phantom. People said he existed, but jem and I had never seen him. People said he went out at night when the moon was down, and peeped in windows. . . The Maycomb school grounds adjoined the back of the Radley lot; from the Radley chickenyard tall pecan trees shook their fruit into the schoolyard, but the nuts lay untouched by the children: Radley pecans would kill you. A baseball hit into the Radley yard was a lost ball and no questions asked. (Lee 10-11)

As you can see, this shows the innocence of the children. These children are blind to their innocence because they haven’t “stood in someone else’s shoes”. If they had considered Boo Radley’s point of view, they would’ve understood that he wasn’t a bad person at all. In fact, Boo was a great person that often left little gifts for the children.

Later on in the book, he even saves Jem and Scout’s lives. If the children had only taken it from both points of view, they would have understood that Boo was a great person. At the end of the novel, Scout finally realized what her father meant by his statement. Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough. (Lee 373)

Scout had understood what Boo had done for the children, and in this sense she left her childlike innocence behind.
Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad. (Lee 373)

Scout had realized what Boo had done for them, and she felt bad for him because of the way the kids thought that he was. Scout had also lost her childhood innocence in the fact that she realized the hypocrisy of the town of Maycomb. During one part of the novel, the topic of Nazi Germany is brought up.Scout makes the connection that the people in Maycomb hate Hitler because he is racist against the Jews, when the people at home are racist against black people.

I hear her say it’s time somebody taught ‘em a lesson, they were gettin’ way above themselves, an’ the next thing they think they can do is marry us, Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an’ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home—- (Lee 331) This means that Scout is no longer innocent; she understands what is happening in Maycomb without other people telling her what exactly they are doing.

Social Hierarchy

Social Hierarchy in To Kill A Mockingbird is very prevalent throughout the book. It was very obvious that there were different social classes within the book, with the middle class white people at the top, then the Cunninghams, then the Ewells, and then the black people. It was extremely obvious that these social classes were made out of prejudice. In fact, many of the people in Maycomb from higher classes would take advantage of the lower classes. One example is the entire Tom Robinson v. Mayella Ewell trial. Since Mayella was from the third class, she thought that she could take advantage of Tom Robinson because he was from the fourth class. This point of social hierarchy is very prevalent in the book. Social class also ties in to innocence for a couple of reasons. Scout doesn’t understand why she cannot invite Walter over for dinner when Aunt Alexandra is there.

“Why not, Aunty? They’re good folks.” She looked at me over her sewing glasses. “Jean Louise, there is no doubt in my mind that they’re good folks. But they’re not our kind of folks.” (Lee 299)

Since the social hierarchy in Maycomb is so biased, people in Maycomb often live off of their old values. The people in Maycomb are always grouped in this way, with no way to escape their social class. Since the social classes have to do with the family you’re from or the color of your skin, you are forced to live in this social class for the rest of your life.


Cite this paper

The Theme of Innocence in To Kill A Mockingbird Book Review. (2020, Sep 09). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-theme-of-innocence-in-to-kill-a-mockingbird/

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