Books & Art

The Best Quotes From To Kill A Mockingbird, One of the Greatest Literary Works of All Time

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
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There’s a reason why To Kill a Mockingbird is on required reading lists around the world. The heart-wrenching plot, the hopeful themes, and the sheer wisdom of author Harper Lee transcend every culture and creed. 

A masterpiece of American literature, To Kill a Mockingbird is, for many bibliophiles, one of the first life-changing novels you’ll ever encounter. It portrays the cruel realities of America before the civil rights movement, when racial inequality and segregation were the norm. Told through the experiences of six-year-old Scout Finch, readers explore the themes of prejudice, race, class, and law in the backdrop of the racially divided Deep South. Although it tackles hate and prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird is ultimately a book about hope—about choosing courage and compassion in the face of widespread ignorance. 

Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird based on her own experiences and observations as a young girl growing up in Alabama in the ‘30s. And just as she based Scout on her younger self, her father, A.C. Lee, was the inspiration for Atticus Finch, Scout’s father. In the book, Atticus, a lawyer, defends a black man from a white woman’s false accusations in court. A supporter of equal rights, Finch is the moral compass of To Kill a Mockingbird, and a role model for the many youths who read the book with dreams of changing the world. 

If you haven’t read this Pulitzer Prize winner yet, take this as a sign to pick it up. And if you have, now is the best time for a reread. In times of divisiveness, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is a reminder that integrity still matters. 

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Here are the best quotes from To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the greatest literary works of all time. 

On Empathy 

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

“Are you proud of yourself tonight that you have insulted a total stranger whose circumstances you know nothing about?”

On Reading and Writing 

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

“Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I'd have the facts.”

On Courage

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

On the Law

“We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people would have us believe- some people are smarter than others, some people have more opportunity because they're born with it, some men make more money than others, some ladies make better cakes than others- some people are born gifted beyond the normal scope of men.

But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal- there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court.”

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On Judgement 

“They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.”

On Equality 

“I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks.”

On Humility 

“People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”

On Name-Calling 

“It’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.”

On Violence 

“You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don't you let 'em get your goat. Try fightin' with your head for a change."

On Treating Children 

“When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion faster than adults, and evasion simply muddles ‘em.” 

On Prejudice 

“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)... There are just some kind of men whowho're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”

“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget itwhenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”

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On Mockingbirds 

“Atticus said to Jem one day, "I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird." That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. "Your father’s right," she said. "Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

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Anri Ichimura
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