What are three quotes from To Kill a Mockingbird and an explanation for each?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator


  • "Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." -- Atticus to Jem, Chapter 10.

Literally, Atticus delivers this message to Jem as a reminder that it's a sin to kill any innocent thing. Atticus obviously believes the beautiful blue jay is exempt, and Miss Maudie later explaiins to Scout that unlike many other birds, the mockingbird

"... 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."  (Chapter 10)

Symbolically, the mockingbird represents all of life's innocent creatures, including the human mockingbirds in the story. Most of the children are like mockingbirds: They live in a world that is not so innocent, and they witness things that seem unexplainable. Tom and Boo are also human mockingbirds--innocent men who have been accused of things of which they are not guilty and have no control.

  • "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 to Scout, Chapter 3

This is Atticus's great lesson in tolerance following Scout's disastrous first day at school. Jem and Scout both use this advice later in the novel: Jem trying to stand in Bob Ewell's shoes to understand Bob's hatred of Atticus, and Scout climbing into Boo's skin--and seeing things through his eyes--in the final chapter.

  • "After all, if Aunty could be a lady at a time like this, so could I." -- Scout, Chapter 24

Scout constantly resists the adult advice that she begin acting more like a lady, and after watching the bad example set by the supposed ladies of the Missionary Circle, she still prefers being around men.

... I was more at home in my father's world. There was something about them (men) that I instinctively liked... they weren't--
     "Hypocrites..."  (Chapter 24)

But after witnessing two real ladies--Miss Maudie and Aunt Alexandra--in action after they compose themselves following the news about Tom's death, Scout realizes that if they can behave as if nothing has happened, so can she.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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