The passage of the Atticus’s killing of the rabid dog is a very significant one in the thematic sense of the novel. Tim Johnson could be viewed as representing the prejudice in the novel, and how like a rabid dog it spreads through the Deep South. Atticus is clearly the saviour, the hero of the novel trying to kill and destroy all form of prejudice and racism in Maycomb, although this is very idealistic. However, in the case of the infected animal, Atticus proves Scout wrong and shows that he can achieve what he has to in this particular situation, although this is unfortunately not always the case in the novel.
The passage is also very effective in the sense of excitement, suspense and meaningfulness of the relationships between the different characters of the novel. This extract from Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” can indeed be related to several others in the book. Firstly, to the climax of the novel, the outcome of the court case when the jury announces that Tom Robinson has been committed guilty. Harper Lee compares the two passages herself during the trial through the narration of Scout, who seems to realise that the two moments in her life contain the same sort of suspenseful atmosphere, to kill a mockingbird mad dog.
Both of the extracts are life-changing times for Scout concerning her personal point of view on life. Scout considers her father an old man too frail and incapable of anything more than sitting around and reading. He is older than her peers’ parents and does not participate in some of their more active occupations such as playing football… He has never mentioned anything to his children concerning the fact that he has perfect aim with a gun, in fact he has probably never touched a gun in their presence.
Therefore Atticus’s shooting of Tim Johnson is a discovery to Jem and Scout as a new aspect to their father of which they are proud. Scout and Jem, in particular Scout who is younger and more affected by prejudice, have been going through a hard time at school ever since Atticus agreed to defend Tom Robinson in court. The shooting of the rabid dog is an event that will go round a small town like Maycomb quickly, probably giving some people a more respectful view of Atticus and his family. Atticus dislikes handling a gun as it gives him an unfair advantage over all living things.
That is, nature is fair in what it has given all beings and using a tool like a gun to kill with allows him special privileges which nature never intended for him to use. Nature seems to have its own law which states that humans should not take advantage of their knowledge of machines and weapons in order to shoot animals, who have no such advantage. However, in the name of public safety Atticus is willing to put this moral aside to achieve a higher goal: the protection of human life. Again, this shows how a law, such as nature’s law or even a personal law such as Atticus’s avoidance of guns, must sometime be bent towards a higher aim.
It is his role to stand, defender of all people, and this is not the only time when he finds himself in this sort of position. This gives him the capability of making everyone equal, regardless of ethnicity and social stature. The dog is viewed by the whole of Maycomb as a dangerous, deadly menace and concerns all the inhabitants of the community, white and black. It therefore unites the whole town in a feeling of fear and disgust, making all people equal in fear for just one moment. Even the Radleys, the outcasts of Maycomb, have to be warned of the incident by the shouts of Calpurnia.
The dog itself is also prejudiced against, and although all the town people consider that they have a reason to despise the creature, the white people of the Deep South at the time also think it perfectly normal and correct to hate the black people. This could make the general situation as being seen as parallel. The passage also refers to the quote from which the title of the novel originates. When Scout and Jem receive air rifles, Atticus gives them the advice: “Shoot all the Bluejays you want, if you can hit’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird.
The action of shooting is indeed the same, and the victims are all subjects to the same treatment: prejudice along with racism. Harper Lee uses symbolism in this sense. Both of the victims: the Mockingbird and Tim Johnson, could be related to Tom Robinson, Boo Radley or even Atticus who is despised in the town for defending a black victim. All of these characters are victims of the same symbolised issue: persecution. Harper Lee’s use of style in the novel is very effective, especially in this particular passage.
The occasional use of short sentences and exciting vocabulary often increases the atmosphere and feeling of suspense during the shooting of Tim Johnson. However, the language and style of writing used in the passage of the killing of the rabid dog is too strongly related to that of the outcome of the trial of Tom Robinson to ignore. The language used in the passage itself is suspenseful and exciting, and the general atmosphere of the passage is extremely similar to that of the court case. Two creature’s lives are at stake: one an animal and one a human related to as an animal. In one, Atticus the saviour succeeds with the use of a gun.
Scout claims that the court case “was like watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a rifle to his shoulder and pull the trigger, but watching all the time knowing that the gun was empty. ” During the killing, time seems to slow to a crawl and Harper Lee puts this into literal words: “Tim Johnson was advancing at a snail’s pace, … he was being pulled gradually towards us. ” “time had slowed to a nauseating crawl. ” Everything is slowed, Atticus is taking precautions while Heck Tate is trying to urge him along with not much success, until the actual action of Atticus shooting takes place and everything takes a much quicker pace.
However, this works all the same in achieving the atmosphere and feeling of complete suspense and excitement, keeping the reader on the edge of his/her seat while subconsciously knowing what will happen in future. If Atticus was to fail in exterminating the infected animal, disease would spread across Maycomb resulting in the end of the novel whereas there is still quite a lot of the book to go at this point. The passage is very effective in creating the suspenseful atmosphere in itself and also very relevant to the rest of the novel.
It hints at elements of racism and prejudice towards persecuted members of such a small community such as Maycomb. However, the passage more prominently demonstrates Atticus’s important role throughout the novel and changes Scout’s general view of her father, turning him into a sort mentor to her and Jem, who relates to him as a “gentleman” at the end of the chapter. In this case Atticus succeeds in banishing the fear and reuniting the community. Unfortunately this situation is not likely to reoccur later on in the novel.