What is the meaning of the following quote? “...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.”
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The following quote is spoken by Atticus Finch in chapter 11:
“...before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority ride is a person’s conscience.”
The importance of this quote lies in the life lessons and moral responsibilities Atticus wishes to teach his children.
The quote refers to the fact that a person cannot "live with himself/herself" unless they are being true to their own morality. If a person was to ignore their own morals, they will not be able to live with themselves. Instead of bending to the pressure of the mentality of Maycomb (meaning the prejudice thought and oppressive ideologies), Atticus is stating that a person must simply look inside themselves as to what is truly right and wrong.
Therefore, the basic interpretation of the quote by Atticus is: A person who does not live by their own morality will be overwhelmed by their own conscious. If they do not live justly (in accordance with their own ideologies), their own guilt be be too much to bear.
In Chapter 11, Atticus attempts to explain to Scout why he is choosing to defend Tom Robinson when the majority of Maycomb's community does not agree with his decision. Atticus tells Scout,
"...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" (Lee 66).
Atticus is essentially teaching Scout the importance of following one's conscience. Atticus understands that it is his moral obligation to defend an innocent black man in front of a prejudiced community. He would feel like a hypocrite and a liar if he chose to do otherwise. As a morally upright individual, Atticus knows that defending Tom Robinson is the right thing to do despite the opinion of others. Atticus would not be able to live with himself if he didn't defend Tom to the best of his ability. Atticus demonstrates his integrity by neglecting the opinions of his neighbors and following his own conscience.
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