Book: “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee (Updated)

I read this book a few years ago, starting in April or May of 2006, after picking up the book at Logan International Airport in Boston. I had previously seen the film many times. Several weeks ago I woke during the night, unable to sleep, recalled this film was on, watched the last portion of the movie, and drew great strength from the character of Atticus Finch. If you’re looking for a great book to read, or a film to see, look no further.

In this post I’ve reproduced passages from the book that I want to make sure I can readily locate again. Page references are to the Warner Books Edition paperback printed in December 1982.

Quote Appearing in the Front of the Book

“Lawyers, I supposed, were children once. – – Charles Lamb”

An Observation of Miss Maudie

[Miss Maudie speaking of the Arthur family.]
“`There are just some kind of men who – – who’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.’” (p. 45)

Amusing Antics of the Jem and Scout

“`Ar-r, Miss Maudie can’t chew gum – – ‘ Jem broke into a grin. `You know, she can talk really pretty sometimes. One time, I asked her to have a chew and she said no thanks, that – – chewing gum cleaved to her palate and rendered her speechless,’ said Jem carefully. `Doesn’t that sound nice?’” (p. 60)

[The exchange between Atticus and Jem when Atticus discovers his children are making a snowman that looks like their neighbor, Mr. Avery.]
“`You can’t go around making caricatures of the neighbors.'”
“`Ain’t a characterture,’ said Jem. “It looks just like him.’” (p. 67)

[Uncle Jack talking to Atticus about Scout.]
“`Her use of bathroom invective leaves nothing to the imagination. But she doesn’t know the meaning of half she says . . . ‘“ (p. 87)

“When Atticus came home to dinner he found me crouched down aiming across the street. `What are you shooting at?’”
“`Miss Maudie’s rear end.’” (p. 91)

The Character and Wisdom of Atticus Finch

“`First of all,’ he said, `if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. 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.’” (p. 30)

“`Mr. Ewell shouldn’t do that – – ‘
`Of course he shouldn’t, but he’ll never change his ways. Are you going to take out your disapproval on his children?’” (p. 31)

[After taking the case to defend Tom Robinson, Atticus explains to Uncle Jack why he is taking the case, while Scout listens from the hall.]
“`But do you think I could face my children otherwise?’”
[The chapter ends with a statement from the narrator, Scout.]
“But I never figured out how Atticus knew I was listening, and it was not until many years later that I realized he wanted me to hear every word he said.” (pp. 88, 89)

[The words of Atticus to Jem after Jem and Scout were given air-rifles.]
“`I’d rather you shoot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds.  Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.'” (p. 90)

[Miss Maudie explaining to Scout the words of Atticus about killing a mockingbird.]
“`Your father’s right,’ she said. `Mockinbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’” (p. 90)

[Miss Maudie explaining to Jem and Scout why their father had stopped shooting guns.]
“`I think maybe he put his gun down when he realized that God had given him an unfair advantage over most living things.’” (p. 98)

[Atticus teaching Jem how do relate to Mrs. Dubois.]
“`Easy does it, son,’ Atticus would say. `She’s an old lady and she’s ill. You just hold you head high and be a gentleman. Whatever she says to you, it’s your job not to let her make you mad.’” (p. 100)

[Atticus explaining to Jem how Mrs. Dubois confronted her morphine addiction before she died.]
“`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 you see it through no matter what.’” (p. 112)

“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.” (p. 154)

“`Atticus says cheatin’ a colored man is ten times worse than cheatin’ a white man,’ I muttered. `Says it’s the worst thing you can do.’”
“Mr. Raymond said, `I don’t reckon it’s – – Miss Jean Louise, you don’t know your pa’s not a run-of-the-mill man, it’ll take a few years for that to sink in – – you haven’t seen enough of the world yet.’” (p. 201)

“According to Miss Stephanie Crawford, however, Atticus was leaving the post office when Mr. Ewell approached him, cursed him, spat on him, and threatened to kill him . . . Miss Stephanie said Atticus didn’t bat an eye, just took out his handkerchief and wiped his face and stood there and let Mr. Ewell call him names wild horses could not bring her to repeat.” (p. 217)

[Jem relating what Atticus had taught him.]
“`He told me havin’ a gun around’s an invitation to somebody to shoot you.’” (p. 217)

“`Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with. The man had to have some kind of comeback, his kind always does. So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that’s something I’d rather gladly take. He had to take it out on somebody and I’d rather it be me that that household of children out there. You understand?’” (p. 218)

“`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 . . . There’s nothing more sickening to me than a low-grade white man who’ll take advantage of a Negro’s ignorance. Don’t fool yourselves – – it’s all adding up and one of these days we’re going to pay the bill for it. I hope it’s not in you children’s time.’” (p. 220, 221)

“`Atticus, he was really nice . . . ‘“
“`Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.’” (p. 281)

The Example and Teachings of Atticus Finch Reflected in His Children

[Jem’s insight after finding that someone had found his pants, sewn them, and placed them on a fence for him, as if they knew what he was going to do.]
“Can’t anybody tell what I’m gonna do lest they know me, can they, Scout?” (p. 58)

“ `. . . Atticus is real old, but I wouldn’t care it he couldn’t do a blessed thing.’”
“Jem picked up a rock and threw it jubilantly at the carhouse. Running after it, he called back: `Atticus is a gentleman, just like me!’” (p. 99)

“`Aw, Aunty, that’s just Dill’s way,’ said Jem.” (p. 158)

“`Why’s he sittin’ with the colored folks?’”
. . . “`That’s just his way,’ said Jem.: (p. 161)

“`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.’” (p. 227)

“`To my way of thinkin’, Mr. Finch, taking the one man who’s done you and this town a great service an’ draggin’ him with his shy ways into the limelight – – to me, that’s a sin. It’s a sin and I’m not about to have it on my head. If it was any other man it’d be different. But not this man, Mr. Fitch . . . I may not be much, Mr. Fitch, but I’m still sheriff of Maycomb County and Bob Ewell fell on his knife. Good night, sir.’”
* * *
“`Scout,’ [Atticus] said, `Mr. Ewell fell on his knife. Can you possibly understand?’”
* * *
“`Yes sir, I understand,’ I reassured him. `Mr. Tate was right . . . [It’d] be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?’” (p. 276)

Update (5-23-10)

The National Endowment for the Arts sponsors a program called “The Big Read” to promote the reading of worthwhile books.  The program’s brochure on “To Kill A Mockingbird” provides some excellent background information, and is available online.

One Response to “Book: “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee (Updated)”

  1. 0dienekes0 Says:

    Great list of quotes!

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