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To Kill a Mockingbird: Notes and Quotes

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Quotes in To Kill a Mockingbird by theme Pride | * ‘…I suppose he loved honour more than his head…’ – talking about Jem when he ran up to the Radley House on a dare. A childish example of the much more complex idea of pride explored in this book * When asked why he is defending Tom Robinson, Atticus reponds that ‘…if I didn’t, I couldn’t hold up my head in town…’ * ‘It was the first time I ever walked away from a fight…’ – Scout refuses to fight Cecil Jacobs even though he insults Atticus, because Atticus had asked her not to fight. She gave up her pride for the respect of her father. * While Scout is proud that ‘Atticus is the ‘deadest shot in Maycomb County’, Jem takes more pride in the fact that Atticus is no proud of this talent and does not use it unless he has to, and that ‘Atticus is a gentleman, like me!’ This is a great example of the way ideas change with youth. * ‘She said she was going to leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody. Jem, when you’re sick as she was, it’s all right to take anything to make it easier, but it wasn’t all right for her. She said she meant to break herself of it before she dies, and that’s what she did’ – About Ms Dubose, who was too proud to die a morphine addict * A major aspect of pride in this novel if family pride. An example of this is when Jem and Scout withstand all of Ms Dubose’s insults and taunts, until she insults their father. When she exclaims that ‘‘your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!’ Jem loses it and destroys her garden. * ‘It was a sad thing that my father had neglected to tell me about the Finch Family, or to install any pride into his children’. As we have already seen, the Finch children are certainly proud of their father and themselves. However, Aunt Alexandra considers family pride upmost – they should not pride in Atticus for his bravery, but pride in him for upholding certain family traditions. To Alexandra, the best families were those who had lived on a certain plot of land longest. | Perspective/understanding other people | * ‘There’s some folks who don’t eat like us’ Another childish example which explores the much deeper idea of perspective * ‘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.’ * ‘You children last night made Walter Cunningham stand in my shoes for a minute. That was enough’ (after the mob scene) * ‘They could never, never understand that I live like I do because that’s the way I want to live’ – Mr Raymond - the ‘drunkard’ - who claims he can tell them ‘because you’re children and you can understand it’ unlike the adults. * Atticus stands by his beliefs and is even able to see Mr Ewell’s point of view; ‘Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minutes. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial…’ | Femininity | * ‘Sometimes you act so much like a girl it’s mortifyin’’ * ‘…Jem told me I was being a girl, that girls always imagined things, that’s who other people hated them so…’ * ‘I declare to the lord you’re getting more like a girl every day!’ * ‘I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress she said I wasn’t supposed to be doing things that required pants’ * Aunt Alexandra claims she moved in to provide Scout a ‘feminine influence’ * ‘I felt the walls of a pink cotton penitentiary closing in on me…’ | Growing up/youth | * ‘”We shouldn’a done that tonight, Scout.” It was then, I suppose, that Jem and I first began to part company.’ ( after the shooting at the Radley house when they tried to peek in the windows) * ‘…I was far too old and big for such childish things, and the sooner I learned to hold it in, the better off everybody would be.’ (About fighting) * ‘When a child asks you something, answer him for goodness’ sake’ - reveals Atticus’ unusual attitude about children; he treats them with much more respect than most adults in the novel. Another good quote for this idea is ‘this is their home sister... We’ve made it this way for them, they might as well learn to cope with it’ – after Alexandra questions whether it was advisable to take the children to the hearing * While Scout is proud that ‘Atticus is the ‘deadest shot in Maycomb County’, Jem takes more pride in the fact that Atticus is no proud of this talent and does not use it unless he has to, and that ‘Atticus is a gentleman, like me!’ This is a great example of the way ideas change with youth. * ‘Jem said I had to grow up sometime’ (about facing Ms Dubose) * ‘It’s time you started being a girl and acting right!’ – While in the past Jem had used ‘girl’ as an insult, accusing Scout of becoming ‘more and more like a girl every day’, as he matures his perspective on this changes. * As Jem grows up, he develops a sense of ‘maddening superiority’, and considers himself part of the ‘grown folks’ of Maycomb. * Jem ‘…broke the remaining code of our childhood’ when he valued adult rules more than children’s unspoken code of friendship and informed Atticus that Dill had run away from home. * ‘They could never, never understand that I live like I do because that’s the way I want to live’ – Mr Raymond - the ‘drunkard’ - who claims he can tell them ‘because you’re children and you can understand it’ unlike the adults. * ‘So far nothing in your life has interfered with your reasoning process… There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads – they couldn’t be fair if they tried.’ * When Scout tell Jem that she thinks there’s just one kind of people (she, like Atticus, believes in the inherent goodness of humanity) he responds; ‘That’s what I thought too… when I was your age. If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other?’ * ‘If Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I’. Far from the fist fighting youth with little control of her emotions, Scout has matured over the course of the book and learned how to hide her feelings * ‘…had our classmates been left to their own devices, Jem and I would have had several swift, satisfying fist fights apiece and ended the matter for good. As it was, we were compelled to hole our heads high and be, respectively, a gentleman and a lady’ | Morality / good vs evil / the inherent goodness of humanity | * Atticus Finch is unique in this novel in the way that he has seen evil without losing his faith in the human capacity for goodness. This is a major theme throughout the novel, and he tries to teach this lesson to his children by encouraging them to step into the shoes of others. He takes Tom Robinson’s case because of this belief, he knows that he is very unlikely to win, but he believes that it is possible to change the minds of the jury. He, unlike the others in this novel, believe that the jury are possible of the kind of goodness and bravery required to acquit Tom. * When Scout asks if they will win it, Atticus plainly says ‘no, honey’. He fights anyway. * ‘Simply because we were liked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win’ * ‘I think maybe he put his gun down when he realised that God has given his an unfair advantage over most living things. I guess he decided he wouldn’t shoot till he had to, and he had to today.’ * ‘Scout, I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man’ * ‘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 abut you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs Dubose won’ * ‘I was drifting into sleep when the memory of Atticyl calmly folding his newspaper and pushing abck his hat became Atticus standing in the middle of an empty waiting steep, pushing up his glasses.’ – Scout links these two events together for a reason * ‘Mr Cunningham’s’ basically a good man… he just has his blind spots along with the rest of us’ – A nice insight into Atticus’ mind, a good quote to evidence his belief in the inherent goodness in humanity * ‘You children last night made Walter Cunningham stand in my shoes for a minute. That was enough’ (after the mob scene) * Scout compares the court day to ‘watching Atticus walk into the street, raise a rifle to his shoulder and pull the trigger, but watching all the time knowing that the gun was empty’ * ‘So far nothing in your life has interfered with your reasoning process… There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads – they couldn’t be fair if they tried.’ * Ms Merriweather believes that many of the people in Maycomb are ‘good, but misguided’ * The novel is concluded with a final moral debate – whether or not to persecute Bob Ewell’s killer. When Atticus thought that Jem had stabbed Ewell in self defence, he was adamant that Jem should go through the proper process in court rather than have rumours circulating about him his whole life. However, when Heck Tate finally convinced Atticus that it was in fact Arthur Radley that killed Ewell, Atticus finds himself in a moral dilemma. He finally concedes that ‘Mr Ewell fell on his knife’, and asks if Scout could possibly understand. She does, explaining perfectly that persecuting Arthur Radley would be ‘sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?’ Arthur Radley was already destroyed once by the evil in humanity, and Atticus and Scout agreed that it would be wrong to make someone as innocent and shy as him to defend himself in court, even if he did not do anything wrong. | Racism | * ‘He’s ruining the family’ * He’s nothin’ but a nigger lover!’ * ‘Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don’t pretend to understand’ (Atticus) * ‘Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!’ This blatant racism comes from Ms Dubose. * ‘They got their church, we go our’n’ – The racial divide in this novel goes both ways. This is further explored when Jem explains to Scout about ‘mixed’ children, and how ‘they don’t belong anywhere’ * ‘Mr Finch. If you was a nigger like me, you’d be scared too’ * ‘The witnesses for this state… have presented themselves to you gentlemen… confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption – the evil assumption – that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women’ * ‘In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black mans, the while man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life’ | Innocence | * The children believe in goodness because they have not yet confronted evil. When they do, they respond differently. Dill cries (eg courthouse scene) and prompts the memorable quote ‘it seems only the children cry’. Dill makes the reader long for youthful innocence and belief in human goodness. Jem copes better with the shock initially, but after Tom’s death loses much of his faith in humanity and the justice system. He gets furious at once point, exclaiming ‘I don’t ever wanta hear about that courthouse again, ever, ever, you hear me?’ Scout deals better with the shock, and despite the court’s decision, people like Atticus and Miss Maudie help her retain her faith in human goodness. * ‘Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird’ – Ms Maudie. A wonderful metaphor for one of the book’s main themes – the loss of innocence. This situation is replicated in a real life situation in the last scene, where Atticus and Heck Tate decide it immoral to convict Arthur Radley of manslaughter when all he was trying to do was protect the Finch children. * ‘Tell him hey for me, won’t you?’ – Scout’s moving talk with Mr Cunningham proves the power of innocence. It was Scout’s youthful innocence that made Mr Cunningham and the rest of the mob reconsider the position they were in. Her speech broke the mob mentality and brought Mr Cunningham back to morality * Jem compares the reveal of evil in society to ‘like bein’ a caterpillar in a cocoon, that’s what it is… I always thought Maycomb folks were the best folks in the world, least that’s what they seemed like.’ * ‘He likened Tom’s death to the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children…’ (Mr Underwood) | Society | * ‘She has committed no crime, she has merely broken a rigid and time-honoured code of our society… she tempted a black man’ * ‘This is their home sister... We’ve made it this way for them, they might as well learn to cope with it’ – after Alexandra questions whether it was advisable to take the children to the hearing * While society shuns and hates the black people living near them, the Missionary Tea Parties give insight into how hypocritical society is when they pity the ‘Mrunas…living in that jungle… the poverty… the darkness’ * The hypocritical society is further explored in the brief reference to the Holocaust in the comments of Scout’s teacher (Miss Gates) that ‘over here we don’t believe in persecuting anybody. Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced.’ |

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