SWINDLE COLUMN: The meaning of the mockingbird

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, October 19, 2021

By Jason Swindle
Senior partner at Swindle Law Group, P.C.

The first book I read was To Kill A Mockingbird.

This book gave me my first insight into the hearts of evil men. It also sparked my interest in the concepts of guilt and innocence. Parts of the book would forge my path through life; particularly during difficult times.

God communes with people in different ways. He primarily speaks to me in a very subtle way through nature.

During many years spent in the woods, I have heard the songs of the mockingbird in the distance, seen them fly to protect their nests, and witnessed their mocking of the songs of other birds. But, I have only personally encountered a mockingbird once in my life. 

April 4, 1999 – 9 p.m – Jefferson County, GA – I am alone in my father’s cabin deep in the woods in an isolated area near Louisville, Georgia. After turkey hunting all day, I am exhausted. But, I cannot sleep. Suddenly, a bird lands on a branch next to my window in the darkness and starts singing. I am frustrated and just wanted the thing to go away. But, he stays and continues to sing as I search for sleep.

April 5, 1999 – 5:30 a.m. – Still awake because of the tormenting from the bird, I suddenly notice his voice change as the Whippoorwills begin to sing.

This bird started mimicking the sounds of the Whippoorwill.

9:30 a.m. – I wake up to complete silence. I look to my left through the window and surprisingly, the bird is still on the branch. As I move to look at him, he turns his head and looks at me straight in the eyes.

It was a mockingbird.  He looks at me for two minutes and flies away. 

While I did not know the meaning of the experience with the mockingbird, something changed inside of me that I would not understand until much later. 

March 30, 2009 – 10 a.m. – Meriwether County.  I am walking and listening for the gobbling of wild turkeys. I stop to rest on a stump. Suddenly, a mockingbird lands in a bush 50 feet away.

He begins to sing. I sit for over an hour listening to him. This time, he does not mimic the other birds in the woods. He has his own song. Strangely, he rarely takes his eyes off of me.

Then, he flies away.

I have been told that when the Mockingbird comes into our lives it can be an innocent message that we need to rethink how we work, interact, and communicate with others.   

The most famous line from the book is, “It is a sin to kill a mockingbird.” While there are many interpretations of this, the most plausible one suggests that to kill a bird that does not bother humans, is not a game bird, and simply mimics the songs of other birds is similar to destroying innocence. Destroying the innocence of a child, fellow human or even a mockingbird is a sin.

There are two mockingbirds in the book. 

Tom Robinson, a kind hearted black man, is accused of raping a white girl. There is no credible evidence. His lawyer, Atticus Finch, actually proves that Tom did not commit the rape.

Yet, Tom is convicted and later murdered by hateful and evil men.

Arthur “Boo” Radley, who has significant mental health disease, is shunned, accused of petty crimes, yet saves a young boy from a vicious attack. Only then do the people realize that Boo is no monster but a kind and innocent man.

Tom and Boo are the mockingbirds in the book because, despite how they are viewed, they are as innocent as a mockingbird