In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee utilizes characterization and symbolism to depict the theme of innocence and the destruction of innocence.
The use of these literary devices heightens the theme of innocence and the destruction of innocence portrayed throughout the novel. As the novel progresses we are exposed to the moral nature of the characters in Maycomb Alabama, which allows the reader to comprehend the depth of innocence and the distraction of innocence.
For instance, Harper Lee uses characters such as Jean Louise Finch, Jeremy Atticus Finch, Charles Baker Harris, Arthur Radley and Tom Robinson to portray innocence in the book as well as Bob Ewell, Mrs Henry Lafayette Dubose and Mr Horace Gilmer as the character who contribute to the distraction of innocence. Also, symbolism is used extensively by Harper Lee whereas symbols such as the mockingbird, a roly-poly, the trial and Jeremy Finch’s broken arm are used to portray innocence and the destruction of innocence.
To Kill a Mockingbird exposes the moral nature of the character’s in the novel to emphasise the existence of innocence and the destruction of innocence in the society. Innocence being the state of being uncorrupted by wider society (Fraczek, 2018). In a conspicuous depiction, the children in this novel showcase naivety irrespective to the differences in the world in which it portrays their innocence. Firstly, Jean Louise Finch known as Scout is the narrator and from the age six, we are aware of her intelligent and inquisitive personality but most importantly Harper Lee reveals childishness and naivety to portray her innocence, for instance, her misinterpretation of where babies come from as she states that a man with a boat row across a foggy island whereas babies are found, and one could order one (Lee, 1960: 145).
Also, Jean Louise Finch portrays innocence as she has not yet comprehended how things work in the adult world like the existence of racial discrimination, prejudice and injustice and this can be seen as she does not fully understand the terms such as rape (Lee, 1960:125), nigger-lover (Lee, 1960:112) as well as her perception that all people are the same as she says “Naw, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” (Lee, 1960:231). Secondly, the character Jeremy Atticus Finch is portrayed as a respectful, protective and also intelligent character but also naïve. He believes that the Maycomb society is indeed righteous but as the Tom Robinson trial unfolds he witness the extent of injustice and the discriminating in the society and therefore states “. I always thought Maycomb folks were the best folks in the world, least that’s what they seemed like.” (Lee,1960:219) indicating his innocence Thirdly, Charles Backer Harris known as Dill in the novel is introduced as the intelligent and adventurous boy who visits Maycomb every summer from Meridian, Mississippi. He displays innocence throughout the novel from his participation in the role-play games but most importantly Harper Lee exposes his innocence through his reaction toward the Tom Robison trail. Charles Harris comes from a different state whereas segregation is not familiar therefore during the trail he finds Mr Horace Gilmer interrogation extremely rude and belittling as he continuously uses “boy” to address Tom Robinson, this therefore, resulted in him bursting into to tears as he did not like the way Mr Gilmer was talking (Lee,1960:203). Lastly, Arthur Radley and Tom Robinson being the two characters who are misunderstood but are possess the quality of innocence. Tom Robinson is a black man who is wrongfully accused of the rape and assault of Mayella Ewell but as the book progress, Harper Lee portrays his innocence by explaining how his selfless acts of helping Mayella with her chores get him convicted. On the other hand, Arthur “Boo” Radley is a mysterious and misunderstood character in Maycomb as the society is constantly fabricating stories about his mysterious way of living indoors but despite the speculations, Arthur Radley is innocent. His actions speak volumes, as we see his caring nature through his way of trying to build a friendship by leaving gift for Jean and Jeremy and rescuing the children from Bob Ewell’s attempt to hurt the children.
Harper Lee utilises the major event involving the trail to display the characters that are involved in the destruction of innocence. Robert E. Lee Ewell otherwise known as Bob Ewell is seen as the lowest amongst the whites in Maycomb (Lee, 1960:172). As the novel progress we learn about Bob Ewell cruelty toward his own children as he would rather spend the relief checks on alcohol and on numerous occasions beats and sexual abuses his daughter Mayella. These acts towards his children could be seen as destruction of their innocence. Also Bob Ewell fabricates an accusation toward Tom Robinson leading to his trail. At the courthouse he claims “I seen that black nigger yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella!” (Lee, 1960:175), falsely accusing Tom Robinson of the rape and assault of Mayella. Regardless of Tom Robinsons testimony (Lee,1960:197), Tom was eventually convicted. It was at this point that Scout, Jem and Dill were exposed to the discrimination and injustices of the world destroying their innocence. In addition, Mr Horace Glimer belittling Tom Robinson as he gives him no respect during his cross examination and this can be seen when he continuously used “boy” to address Tom. All these actions reveal how insensitive humans can be destroying the innocence of the others.