There are two spots in this novel that never fail to move me to tears. One of them is Atticus's impassioned plea to the jury; this is a masterful review of America's judicial system. In contrast, as he sits down at the end of this speech, he simply says, "For the love of God, do your duty. In the name of God, gentlemen, believe Tom Robinson." It is a picture of his heart as he pleads for the life of an innocent man; it is also a picture of a justice system which is not blind to color and gender. It just makes me sad.
The other one happens shortly after the verdict is rendered. As a dejected Atticus is walking out of the courthouse, Reverend Sykes says this to Scout:
Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin'."
I love this because it is a simple declaration of love and respect for a justice-loving man as well as a gentle lesson for a young girl who will one day understand what really happened in that courtroom.
While clearly an idealist, Atticus, however, has not lost his sense of the realities of life like so many of his ilk. In Chapter 20, as he delivers his closing remarks, Atticus alludes to the words of Thomas Jefferson that "all men are created equal" and clarifies this phrase regarding the equality under the law to which Tom Robinson.
In his explanation Atticus makes reference to the misinterpretations of the phrase and shows that he is yet a man with common sense:
....a phrase that the Yankees and the distaff side of the Executive branch in Washington are fond of hurling at us. There is a tendency in this year of grace, 1935, 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 most men.
One of my many favorite quotes from this novel is from Atticus. The right thing to do is seldom popular or easy, but, as Atticus points out, your own conscience is a force to be reckoned with.
"They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions," said Atticus, "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."
Considering the amount of attention Harper Lee devotes to reading and learning to read, especially in relation to Atticus and Scout, (1) Lee indicates that reading, and being a "deep reader," is an essential (maybe the essential) civilizing element that allows a person to see rightly and not like Maycomb sees, (2) a quotation about reading would be an important one to have, as when Scout tells that she learned to read through:
anything Atticus happened to be reading when I crawled into his lap every night. Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.
I think one of the most impacting quotes is from the final chapter when we see Attitcus's advice "in action" so to speak. Scout has walked Boo Radley home, and when she stands on his porch (and metaphorically in his shoes) she can see the street and the events of the past year from his point of view. She relates that she sees in the following:
It was summertime, and two children scampered down the sidewalk toward a man approaching in the distance. The man waved, and the children raced each other to him.
It was still summertime, and the children came closer. A boy trudged down the sidewalk dragging a fishing pole behind him. A man stood waiting with his hands on his hips. Summertime, and his children played in the front yard with their friend, enacting a strange little drama of their own invention.
It was fall, and his children fought on the sidewalk in front of Mrs. Dubose's. The boy helped his sister to her feet, and they made their way home. Fall, and his children trotted to and fro around the corner, the day's woes and triumphs on their faces. They stopped at an oak tree, delighted, puzzled, apprehensive.
Winter, his children shivered at the front gate, silhouetted against a blazing house. Winter, a man walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog.
Summer, and he watched his children's heart break. Autumn again, and Boo's children needed him.
This passage completely captures the essence of the novel, and so thoughtfully conveys the theme of looking at the world from someone else's perspective.
When I was re-reading the book recently I was struck by the comment Miss Maudie makes about Atticus:
“We’re the safest folks in the world,” said Miss Maudie. “We’re so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are, we’ve got men like Atticus to go for us.”
I like the juxtaposition with the realism of Atticus' response to Alexandra when he suggests that the children ought to see the reality of the world they live in with all its horrors and dishonesty and then Maudie brings up this idealistic vision of Atticus as the knight in shining armor who can be depended on to always do what is right.
Aside from the first post's suggestion, I'd have to go with the title quote: "Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." There are many symbolic examples that refers to this quote running throughout the novel, and it's a phrase that you still hear occasionally today.
My favorite quote is found in chapter eleven. As a daddy's girl, even at 36, I have always idolized my father. This quote simply reminds me of him and the love between a daughter and her father.
"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."
One famous statement occurs when Scout reports that her father told her that "you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them." This comment impresses Scout, and variations of these word appear in several places throughout the novel. This comment expresses a major theme of the book.