Mythology and Archetypes in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

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Mythology and Archetypes in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

Of all the various approaches to criticism, the Mythological/Archetypal achieves the greatest impact over the entire literary scope, because the themes and patterns unearthed apply universally to all works, yielding results that can be applied to a great many texts. This is because the very nature of the Mythological/Archetypal approach is the exploration of the canon for widespread and pervading symbols, plots, and characters. These are all greatly extant in Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, an extraordinary examination of the Depression-era South through the eyes of a young girl with rare intelligence and insight, living in a small town
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Through Tom, the legal and social rights of the entire community are called into question. Tom's injury, therefore, represents the injury of all the people he epitomizes.

These symbols can be illustrated many places elsewhere in the literary canon. For example, the archetypal character of the crippled man symbolizing a crippled society can be perceived in the character of Benjy Compton in William Faulkner's tremendously symbolic novel The Sound and the Fury; Benjy, who is severely mentally challenged, has no concept of time and is preyed upon by vulturous members of his world, including his black care-giver and his older brother Jason. Benjy represents Faulkner's conception of the decaying Southern gentility; that the sense of time is skewed (with its emphasis on the conservative old ways and the antebellum morality, the South, like Benjy, is living in a mixed world of past and present which is largely responsible for its failure and decline) and that its fate is beyond its control. Harper Lee's use of Tom Robinson is very similar: the arm, destroyed by a cotton gin (possibly symbolizing the damaging mechanization of modern society), represents the black communities' lack of power and strength; however, all is not negative: Tom has a
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