To Kill a Mockingbird Questions and Answers
by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover
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What are the most significant quotes in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird?

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There are many significant quotes throughout the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. The following quotes are important to the plot and theme of the novel.

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view---" (Lee 39)

An important theme throughout the novel is gaining insight into other people's point of view. Atticus teaches Scout about perspective when she returns home from her first day of school.

"Somehow, if I fought Cecil I would let Atticus down." (Lee 102)

This quote portrays Scout's moral development. She is cognizant that her actions have consequences and does not want to upset her father. This quote portrays how Scout looks up to Atticus and values his opinion.

"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." (Lee 119)

Another important theme throughout the novel is the importance of treating innocent beings with respect and kindness. Mockingbirds symbolize innocent humans such as Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. Atticus teaches his children that it is a sin to harm innocent beings.

"nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don't mean anything---like snot-nose. It's hard to explain---ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody's favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It's slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody." (Lee 144)

This quote depicts Atticus explaining to Scout what the racial slur "nigger-lover" means. Throughout the novel, Scout and Jem are subjected to racial slurs directed towards their father. Atticus teaches his children the importance of responding to ignorant remarks with tolerance instead of hate.

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that real 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 you see it through no matter what." (Lee 149)

Following Scout and Jem's interaction with Mrs. Dubose, Atticus explains why he wanted Jem to read to her. He explains to them what real courage is, which parallels his choice to defend Tom Robinson in the midst of a prejudiced community.

"No, everybody's gotta learn, nobody's born knowin'. That Walter's as smart as he can be, he just gets held back sometimes because he has to stay out and help his daddy. Nothin's wrong with him. Naw, Jem, I think there's just one kind of folks: Folks." (304)

This quote depicts Scout's moral development. She is not jaded about humanity the way her brother is following Tom's conviction. Scout has learned from her father that all people are created equal, despite what others think.

"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." (Lee 373)

Scout finally realizes that Boo Radley is a caring, shy individual. This moment depicts her understanding and displays her maturation at the end of the novel.

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