Quotes are memorable phrases, sentences or lines presenting universal pearls of wisdom and lessons. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has a host of remarkable phrases and sentences which are used everywhere. They are still perfectly applicable to the present generation. Here are some of its memorable quotations with a contextual explanation.
Quotes from To a Kill a Mockingbird
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
In chapter two, Miss Caroline is not delighted with the fact that Scout can read well at such a young age. She is quite strict on her remarks about education which creates a negative environment in Scout’s class. Through Scout’s comments, the writer compares reading to breathing, something essential for living. Scout’s father, Atticus encourages his children to read books and also feel the joy while reading. This quote shows how humans find escape in life when we read good literature and enjoy little pleasures.
“Your father does not know how to teach. You can have a seat now. ‘I mumbled that I was sorry and retired meditating upon my crime.”
These lines are taken from chapter two when Scout meets her teacher. The first part of is clear and shows that Miss Caroline is not appreciative of Scouts reading ability. In the second part of the dialogue, Scout is forced to think that her reading ability might be a crime and even tries to apologize after Miss Caroline Fisher insults her. This quote expresses the prejudice held by the teacher against her student. Many people across the world often behave so when they are jealous or unappreciative of people younger or inferior to them.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
This is one of the most famous quotes of this novel having universal appeal. Here Atticus, the main character of the story, is saying that we should not judge a person unless we go through the same situation. In other words, you should evaluate a person by putting yourself in his place. This quote is significant as it highlights the fact that people usually make their own judgments about others without knowing them personally.
“People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”
Miss Maudie speaks these words in the tenth chapter. She finds Atticus putting down the rabid dog. She considers Atticus a modest and a humble man. That is why she expresses that he should not take pride in what he is doing. This quote is significant as it explains that people should not carry pride in their talents and choose to stay humble despite success.
“‘It’s not necessary to tell all you know. It’s not ladylike -in the second place, folks don’t like to have someone around knowin’ more than they do. It aggravates ‘em. You’re not gonna change any of them by talkin’ right, they’ve got to want to learn themselves, and when they don’t want to learn there’s nothing you can do but keep your mouth shut or talk their language.’”
These dialogues are spoken when Calpurnia teaches Jem that he should talk according to the situation. She narrates her experiences with different kinds of people. Cal is an educated lady who can speak fluent English at Finch’s house. Here Calpurnia also sets an example for Scout by telling her what it means to be a social and mature person.
“Atticus had said it was the polite thing to talk to people about what they were interested in, not about what you were interested in.”
This sentence is taken from the scene where Atticus faces the conventional angry mob. The mob is gathered in front of the Maycomb Jail where Tom is imprisoned. The people intend to hurt Atticus right before Scout jumps in front of Atticus and through her innocent talk convinces the mob to think and also make them leave. These lines are significant as they were powerful enough to make the mob change their mind. Through these words, we also learn that it is always good to put others’ need before ours.
“Our courts have their faults, as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levellers, and in our courts all men are created equal.”
Here Atticus is expressing his opinion that not all men are created equal. Some people are talented, intellectual, gifted or witty whereas; others are dull. Also, a court is not a person instead it is a system. By pointing it, Atticus actually hopes that the jury will decide without being biased in Tom’s case. This quote outlines and points out the philosophical underpinnings of the novel.
“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 it – whenever 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.”
Atticus speaks these words when Tom faces the trial in response to Jem’s question of the verdict against Tom. Tom is accused of the crime he did not commit. He is not successful in getting a square deal in the courtroom as jury carry their resentments. This striking act of the jury leads Atticus to deliver these exceptional words and also earn respect from them. There is a clear expression of racial prejudices faced by Tom and also the tension of that period.
“If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I’m beginning to understand something. I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all this time… it’s because he wants to stay inside.”
These notable words of Jim spotlight the constitution of human nature as a mixture of good and evil. Similarly, Jim is trying to figure out why people cannot get along. He points out the living style of Boo Radley, who prefers to stay inside most of the time. He further assumes that Boo is actually trying to protect himself because he knows the differences among people will lead to misunderstandings. Hence, stay away from everyone will protect him. These lines also show the separation of people based on their background and even skin color.
“Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”
Atticus and many other characters of Lee’s novel show prowess of playing with the words. Here Atticus is talking to Scout to show how people do not reveal themselves in the first meeting. Therefore, it is better to spend time with them to understand the person fully before judging them. Atticus means that she should take time to get to know people to understand them better.