When Scout and Jem receive airguns for Christmas Atticus tells them that although he would prefer that they practice their shooting with tin cans

Etudes

When Scout and Jem receive airguns for Christmas Atticus tells them that although he would prefer that they practice their shooting with tin cans, if they must shoot at living things, they must never shoot at mockingbirds. Atticus explains that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. Clearly this is the title scene, but the theme continues throughout the book. Miss Maudie explains why Atticus is correct mockingbirds never do anyone any harm, and are not pests in any way. All they do is sing beautifully and live peacefully. Therefore, it is a sin to kill them. The mockingbird comes to represent true goodness and purity. The other theme regards the children’s growing awareness of what is cowardice and what is true heroism. The central figure and model for them here is their father, Atticus. In part 1, the children do not consider their father much of a hero because he will not play football with the Baptists. Only when Atticus shoots a rabid dog do the children learn that their humble father is “the deadest shot in Maycomb county.” Atticus tries to redefine heroism for the children when he has Jem and Scout read to the hated Mrs. Dubose. He tells them after her death that she was a morphine addict trying to free herself of her addiction before dying. Atticus comments that true heroism is “when you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway.” In part 2 of the novel tticus lives up to this definition of heroism by his courageous defense of Tom Robinson.