Harper Lee will forever be remembered for her charm, wisdom and humor; she will be missed for her beautiful and strong works of literacy, and will remain as one of the most inspirational authors of all time. With the ability to handle the most complex issues and present them to us in a way in which it changes how we recognise the world around us, she will always remain as one of the most powerful writers.
The beloved author passed away at age 89 on Friday in Monroeville, Alabama. Most of her readers fell under her spell in school with her first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, being one of the most taught works of fiction. Sitting at the top with novels such as The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies and Pride and Prejudice.
To Kill a Mockingbird explores the more complicated issues of race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s as Atticus Finch defends a black man charged with attacking a white girl. Through the eyes of young Scout, one of literature’s most endearing and unforgettable narrators, Lee creates one of the greatest heroes of story telling in her father, whose lone struggle for justice pricks the conscience of a town steeped in prejudice and hypocrisy.
A follow up to To Kill a Mockingbird was published just last year, and it was one of the most talked about novels in 2015. Go Set a Watchman was voted the Best Fiction of 2015 in the Goodreads Choice Awards.
To celebrate Lee’s life and work, we want to share some of the most timeless and classic quotes from To Kill a Mockingbird.
1. “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.”
This quote always remind me of the opening chapter in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, where Nick says: “Whenever you feel like criticising anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” Meaning that it is not fair to judge people by circumstances over which they have no control, or to judge them without knowing what’s really happening in their lives.
2. “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.”
Atticus wanted his children to see that being brave and courageous is simply having the audacity to start something, and then to carry it through, even if everyone around you is telling you that you can’t do it. That takes more courage than raising your fists ever will.
3. 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.”
This quote to me perfectly sums up the whole novel and what it stands for. It reminds us, with respect to the book’s title, that to harass a creature that brings nothing but joy is a sin. Just like the way the black man Atticus is defending, a man who brought nothing but joy, is being harassed is a sin.
4. “Atticus, he was real nice.”
“Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”
This conversation just proves that people can talk to each other, and know each other, without actually seeing who they really are. To really see someone for more than what they project on the outside takes more than passing conversation – and we find that most of the time, when we finally break that barrier and see who we’re talking to, we usually like the person underneath.
5. “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.”
This is the best way to tell someone to be the bigger person, and not to listen to those who try to put you down. People can be horrible and say the nastiest of things to try and get you down, but if you hold your head high and refuse to hear them, you will keep believing in yourself, and in the end that’s all you need. This is the kind of deeper message that is portrayed throughout the whole novel.
6. “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.”
This quote struck me as being one of the most real things found in today’s society. People become so wrapped up in what will happen after they’re gone, or making sure they have enough when they become old and can’t do anything, or too busy worrying about the future, that they forget to live in the present moment. It does not to well to dwell on the future and forget to live.
7. “Things are always better in the morning.”
I found this to be one of the most hopeful lines in the whole novel. It’s the idea that no matter how bad your day has went or what’s happened, tomorrow always promises something better. After sleeping on the events of the day, everything is more clarified and calmer the next day. It has hope that when things get bad, then the only way is up, and to try again the next day.
8. “It’s not time to worry yet.”
Worrying has it’s time and place, and everyone is subject to it. However, this quote goes to show that although worrying can be a necessity, it’s not always important to worry right now. We don’t to worry about things too early, and if we do, it can stop us enjoying the present time. So we don’t need to worry until we have to.
9. “There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ’em all away from you. That’s never possible.”
We all want to protect those we love from getting hurt in the world, to stop all the bad things from happening, but there’s too much to guard against and we’d never win. But, really, would we want to? To be hurt is to love; to be betrayed is to trust; to grieve is to have something worth having. Would we really give all the rest of it up, just so we don’t have the bad? Isn’t having the good, the best, worth the pain in the end, anyway?
10. “No, everybody’s gotta learn, nobody’s born knowin.”
We all need to make mistakes and learn lessons from life; we need to see the bad to enjoy the good and make mistakes so know what to do right next time. No one ever starts off already knowing everything. The wisest of people make the biggest mistakes – they just learned from them.