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101 Important To Kill A Mockingbird Quotes

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Get all the most important To Kill a Mockingbird quotes by Harper Lee. You'll hear from characters like Atticus Finch, Scout, Jem, and Boo on themes like integrity, equality, empathy, justice, and so many more.

to kill a mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is the classic 1960 Pulitzer Prize winner. It was also voted America's Best-Loved Novel in PBS's The Great American Read." Essentially, it's a coming-of-age novel that deals with difficult issues like rape and racial inequality in the American South and introduces the reader to one of the most beloved literary heros of all time: the very ethical lawyer an father, Atticus Finch.

(It's also on the list of books mentioned on Gilmore Girls.)

Frequently Asked Questions

First, below are answers to frequently asked questions about To Kill a Mockingbird quotes:

What is the first line of To Kill a Mockingbird?

"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow."

What is the last line of To Kill a Mockingbird?

"He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning."

What is the quote about 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.'"

To Kill A Mockingbird Quotes

Below are the most famous To Kill a Mockingbird quotes. You'll hear from popular characters like Atticus Finch, Scout Finch, Miss Maudie, Tom Robinson, Jem, and Boo Radley in these themes and categories:

  • Racism
  • Conflict
  • Justice
  • Coming-of-Age
  • Education
  • Social Class
  • Courage
  • Justice
  • Integrity
  • Parenting
  • Isolation
  • Kindness
  • Love
  • Family
  • Empathy
  • Equality
  • Controversial
  • Miscellaneous

Racism

Below are the best To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about racism:

"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."

"The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box."

“Which, gentlemen, we know is in itself a lie as black as Tom Robinson’s skin, a lie I do not have to point out to you. You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women—black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire.”

“Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don’t pretend to understand.”

“Cry about the simple hell people give other people- without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they’re people, too.”

Conflict

Below are famous To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about conflict:

"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."

“Best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open.”

Justice

Below are the most important To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about justice:

"Don’t see how any jury could convict on what we heard."

“Finders were keepers unless title was proven.”

“No suh, scared I’d hafta face up to what I didn’t do.”

“Then Mr. Underwood’s meaning became clear: Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men’s hearts Atticus had no case.”

Coming of Age

Below are the best To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about coming of age:

"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."

"Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad."

"I thought I wanted to be a lawyer but I ain’t so sure now!"

“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.”

Education

Below are famous To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about education:

"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."

"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."

"No, everybody’s gotta learn, nobody’s born knowin’."

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

"Miss Caroline told me to tell my father not to teach me any more, it would interfere with my reading.”

“You don’t have to learn much out of books, it’s like if you want to learn about cows, you go milk one.”

“Well if you don’t want me to grow up talkin’ that way, why do you send me to school?”

“Never, never, never, on cross-examination ask a witness a question you don’t already know the answer to, was a tenet I absorbed with my baby-food.”

“Nothin’s real scary except in books.”

"People don’t like to have somebody knowing more than they do. It aggravates them."

"I just thought you'd like to know I can read. You got anything needs readin' I can do it."

Courage

Below are inspiring To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about 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."

"It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived."

"'Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win,' Atticus said."

"Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew."

Social Class

Below are the most important To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about social class:

"There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County. But it was a time of vague optimism for some of the people: Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself."

"Hush your mouth! Don’t matter who they are, anybody sets foot in this house’s yo’ comp’ny, and don’t you let me catch you remarkin’ on their ways like you was so high and mighty! Yo’ folks might be better’n the Cunninghams but it don’t count for nothin’ the way you’re disgracin’ ’em—if you can’t act fit to eat at the table you can just set here and eat in the kitchen!"

"'There's some folks who don't eat like us,' she whispered fiercely, 'but you ain't called on to contradict 'em at the table when they don't. That boy's yo' comp'ny and if he wants to eat up the table cloth you let him, you hear?'"

Integrity

Below are the most inspirational To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about social class :

"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.'"

"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."

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

"People in their right minds never take pride in their talents."

"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."

"There are some men in this world who are born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father's one of them."

"They did the best they could with the sense they had."

"Jem was standing in a corner of the room, looking like the traitor he was. 'Dill, I had to tell him,' he said. 'You can’t run three hundred miles off without your mother knowin’.”

"So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that’s something I’ll gladly take.”

“Before Jem looks at anyone else he looks at me, and I’ve tried to live so I can look squarely back at him.”

“She’s an old lady and she’s ill. You just hold your head high and be a gentleman. Whatever she says to you, it’s your job not to let her make you mad.”

Parenting

Below are the best To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about parenting:

"[Atticus] turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning."

"People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for, and they have a right to subject their children to it."

"We're paying the highest tribute you can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It's that simple."

"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."

"Bad language is a stage all children go through, and it dies with time when they learn they're not attracting attention with it."

“I didn’t know how you were going to do it, but from now on I’ll never worry about what’ll become of you, son, you’ll always have an idea.”

"When Jem an’ I fuss Atticus doesn’t ever listen to just Jem’s side of it, he hears mine too.”

Isolation

Below are important To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about isolation:

“Nobody knew what form of intimidation Mr. Radley employed to keep Boo out of sight, but Jem figured that Mr. Radley kept him chained to the bed most of the time. Atticus said no, it wasn’t that sort of thing, that there were other ways of making people into ghosts.”

"'Why do you reckon Boo Radleys never run off?' Dill sighed a long sigh and turned away from me. Maybe he doesn't have anywhere to run off to."

Compassion

Below are famous To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about compassion:

“This time we aren’t fighting the Yankees, we’re fighting our friends. But remember this, no matter how bitter things get, they’re still our friends, and this is still our home.”

“Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at the fire you didn’t know it when he put the blanket around you.”

“I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man.”

Kindness

Below is the best To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about kindness:

“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.”

Love

Below is the best To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about Love:

“With him, life was routine; without him, life was unbearable.”

Family

Below are important To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about family:

"You can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family, an' they're still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge 'em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don't."

"Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin'."

"[...] Aunty said that one had to behave like a sunbeam, that I was born good but had grown progressively worse every year. She hurt my feelings and set my teeth permanently on edge, but when I asked Atticus about it, he said there were already enough sunbeams in the family and to go on about my business, he didn’t mind me much the way I was."

"Atticus ain’t ever whipped me since I can remember. I want to keep it that way."

Empathy

Below are inspirational To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about empathy:

"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."

"Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough."

“When they finally saw him, why he hadn’t doneany of those things . . . Atticus, he was real nice. . . .” His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me. “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

“You children made Walter Cunningham stand in my shoes for a minute. That was enough.”

"You see they could never, never understand that I live like I do because that's the way I want to live."

Equality

Below are the most important To Kill a Mockingbird quotes about equality:

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

"Thomas Jefferson once said that all men are created equal [...]. There is a tendency (...) for certain people to use this phrase out of context, to satisfy all conditions. The most ridiculous example I can think of is that the people who run public education promote the stupid and idle along with the industrious-because all men are created equal, educators will gravely tell you, the children left behind suffer terrible feelings of inferiority."

"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."

“Our courts have their faults, as does any human institution, but in this country, our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts, all men are created equal.” 

"There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads—they couldn’t be fair if they tried.”

“Equal rights for all, special privileges for none.”

"Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an’ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home-”

Controversial

Below are the most controversial To Kill a Mockingbird quotes:

"Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of another."

"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."

“Things are never as bad as they seem.”

Miscellaneous

Below are the best miscellaneous To Kill a Mockingbird quotes:

"Things are always better in the morning."

"It's not time to worry yet."

"Tellin’ the truth’s not cynical, is it?The way you tell it, it is."

"One must lie under certain circumstances and at all times when one can't do anything about them."

"They're ugly, but those are the facts of life."

"Sometimes it’s better to bend the law a little in special cases."

"When stalking one’s prey, it is best to take one’s time. Say nothing, and as sure as eggs he will become curious and emerge."

"Nothing is more deadly than a deserted, waiting street."

"Let the dead bury the dead."

"The apple does not fall far from the tree."

"Just remember that sometimes, the way you think about a person isn't the way they actually are."

"The things that happen to people we never really know."

"Lawyers, I suppose were once children, too."

“I try to give'em a reason, you see. It helps folks if they can latch onto a reason.”

"I had never encountered a being who deliberately perpetuated fraud against himself."

“That proves something- that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they're still human.”

"Clowns are sad, it's folks that laugh at them. [...] Well I'm gonna be a new kind of clown. I'm gonna stand in the middle of the ring and laugh at the folks.”

"He said I was the only girl he would ever love, then he neglected me. I beat him up, but it did no good."

“She was born in the Objective case.”

“I know now what he was trying to do, but Atticus was only a man. It takes a
woman to do that kind of work.”

“I came to the conclusion that people were just peculiar, I withdrew from them, and never thought about them until I was forced to.”

“Ladies in bunches always filled me with vague apprehension and a firm desire to be elsewhere.”

“She seemed glad to see me when I appeared in the kitchen, and by watching her I began to think there was some skill involved in being a girl.”

"'The world's endin', Atticus! Please do something -!' I dragged him to the window and pointed. 'No it's not,' he said. 'It's snowing.'”


Those are all the most important To Kill a Mockingbird quotes.

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Further Reading

An earlier draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman, was published on July 14, 2015.

Buy Go Set a Watchman:

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