When Atticus Finch tells his children, "shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit "em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" (p. 99), the mockingbird motif becomes apparent. This is the motif that gives the novel it's name based upon an important theme and is directly related to two of the major characters. .
At first, this excerpt may appear to be insignificant to the story. However, the reader becomes aware that the mockingbird image is used extensively throughout the book. As the first half of the novel focuses on the mysterious Boo Radley and the second half on the Tom Robinson trial, both of these characters can be viewed as mockingbirds - harmless creatures who are unjustly persecuted by society. .
The full significance of Atticus's remark, "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" (p. 99), is explained by Miss Maudie Atkinson. Miss Maudie informs Scout that mockingbirds do nothing but "sing their hearts out for us" (p. 100), making music for us to enjoy. They represent a gentle and innocent creature and the destruction of these birds is a senseless act of injustice. The slaughter of a mockingbird can be likened to the bigoted treatment of Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. .
The children's obsession with Boo Radley brings dominance to his character. Although he is rarely seen by Jem and Scout, it is his mystique that they find fascinating. He is a constant source of their conversations and games. Through his gifts in the tree, the mending of Jem's pants and covering Scout with a blanket as she witnessed the burning of Miss Maudie's house, the reader becomes aware, long before Scout does, that Boo is an affectionate person. He watches the children from a distance because he is too shy to come out and make friends. Because of Boo's unsociable manner he is persecuted by the community. .
It is not until Boo saves Jem and Scout's lives, by killing Bob Ewell, that Scout finally understands why Boo is so reticent.