Symbolism in to Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee effectively uses symbolism throughout her novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.  

Jem's nursing of the flowers denotes his courage that he nurses in order to be able to tolerate people's criticism of his family, especially of his father. He was forced to take care of the camellias just as he was forced to live with anger, disappointment and a big question mark in his young heart about the workings of grownups. Atticus "never thought Jem'd be the one to lose his head over this" (110). However Jem did 'lose his head' and now he has to find the strength to control his emotions in order to avoid further trouble. This courage was hard to find but Mrs Dubose did find it and managed to break herself from morphine before she died. She also made sure Jem got a white waxy camellia she had prepared for him. The waxy camellia, the "Snow-on-the-Mountain" (118), could be a symbol of courage. She built her spirit little by little just as when she was making the camellia. Now it is Jem's turn to build his own. And as the camellia out of wax does not wither, in the same sense, true courage may be hard to build, but once built, it never leaves you.

            Mrs Dubose's camellias are not the only flowers that can be seen symbolically. Mayella Ewell's red geraniums also carry an important meaning. During the Robinson trial the reader is given a description of the Ewell's property. It is said that "what passed for a fence was bits of tree-limbs , broomsticks and tool shafts, all tipped with rusty hammer-heads, snaggle-toothed rake heads, shovels, axes and grubbing hoes, held on with pieces of barbed wire. Enclosed by this barricade was a dirty yard containing the remains of a Model-T Ford, a discarded dentist's chair, an ancient ice-box, plus lesser items: old shoes, worn-out table radios, picture frames, and fruit jars, under which scrawny orange chickens pecked hopefully". (176) The general picture one acquires by this description is that of a small dump, a place...