Why did Harper Lee Choose to Use a Mockingbird to Represent a Harmless Creature?
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Dec 16th, 2019

Why did Harper Lee Choose to Use a Mockingbird to Represent a Harmless Creature?

“Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” What a beautiful quote. It seems silly or senseless when you first hear it, but it has a lot of meaning indeed.

This quote was said by Atticus Finch, a fictional character that Harper Lee created. When referring to a mockingbird, they talk about a harmless creature that would not be worth killing, but is a mockingbird actually harmless?

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Is it harmless compared to other creatures? For example, Atticus Finch from to ‘Kill a Mockingbird’ mentioned that the mockingbird is a harmless creature. So is it harmless when comparing it to other creatures, why choose a mockingbird specifically for that analogy? To test this out, I’ve decided to compare it to a whole other bird species called Northern cardinals.

Northern Mockingbirds are said to have quite a personality, in fact, according to the Duncraft wild bird blog and they are said to be highly territorial. As for Northern cardinals, there is not much drama, they are greatly appreciated in their backyard and are known for their joyous songs. Something unique about the Northern Mockingbirds is that they can mimic almost every sound around them. While Northern Cardinals can produce noise, but by simply singing, they can not imitate other sounds. Now they may seem very different, however, both bird species are monogamous, meaning that that the pair of birds stay together for life.

You have got a glimpse of their personalities and characteristics, but what about their physical traits? Northern mockingbirds are very distinguishable from Northern cardinals. According to the ‘All About Birds’ article, by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Northern Cardinals are known for their very bright red color.

While Northern Mockingbirds have simple and blands colors that range from shades of grey to/with black. However, ‘All About Birds’ also says that Northern Mockingbirds have a longer wingspan, ranging from 31-38 cm. Northern Cardinals do not reach that length, their wingspan ranges from 21-23.5 cm. However, both birds are known to be medium-sized birds.

Northern Mockingbirds and cardinals have quite unique diets. For example, mockingbirds feed almost exclusively on insects during late spring and summer. During fall and winter, their diet consists mostly on fruits and berries. Cardinals prefer seeds because of their long beaks. Similarly, they both eat insects, cardinals also eat insects in some occasions and feed only insects to their young.

In conclusion, you can see that both of these species are unique. Why did Harper Lee choose to use a mockingbird to represent a harmless creature? Northern Cardinals are also quite harmless and pleasant. I believe that Lee’s decision to use a mockingbird was simply a matter of choice. It does give a good ring to the book title. After all, who could imagine this beloved novel being titled anything besides, To Kill a Mockingbird?

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