phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

To Kill a Mockingbird

Posted by ESC on January 21, 2003

In Reply to: To Kill a Mockingbird posted by Lc on January 19, 2003

: I'm looking for the origin of the proverb put forth by Harper Lee in her novel. Did Lee invent this proverb for her book or does the "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" story originate someplace else?

I don't know if the expression is original to the book. Here's all I could find at a couple of online study guide sites:

Mockingbird - The title of To Kill a Mockingbird has very little literal connection to the plot, but it carries a great deal of symbolic weight in the book. In this story of innocents destroyed by evil, the "mockingbird" comes to represent the idea of innocence. Thus, to kill a mockingbird is to destroy innocence. Throughout the book, a number of characters (Jem, Tom Robinson, Dill, Boo Radley, Mr. Raymond) can be identified as mockingbirds-innocents who have been injured or destroyed through contact with evil. This connection between the novel's title and its main theme is made explicit several times in the novel: after Tom Robinson is shot, Mr. Underwood compares his death to "the senseless slaughter of songbirds," and at the end of the book Scout thinks that hurting Boo Radley would be like "shootin' a mockingbird." Most important, Miss Maudie explains to Jem: "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but ... sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." That Jem and Scout's last name is Finch (another type of small bird) indicates that they are particularly vulnerable in the racist world of Maycomb, which often treats the fragile innocence of childhood harshly.

The TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD Student Survival Guide
ALLUSIONS: mockingbird: a North American bird known for its vocal imitations. See a picture and find out more about mockingbirds.