Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What are some quotes in To Kill a Mockingbird about not judging someone before you get to know them?

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One of the most important lessons Atticus teaches Scout concerns the importance of exercising perspective in order to become a tolerant, understanding individual. After Scout's rough first day of school, Atticus teaches her a lesson in perspective by saying,

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. (30)

As the novel progresses, Scout gradually matures and begins to notice the complex personalities of her neighbors. After Mr. Cunningham leads a lynch mob to harm Tom Robinson, Atticus encourages his children to exercise perspective by telling them,

Mr. Cunningham’s basically a good man ... he just has his blind spots along with the rest of us. (159)

During the Tom Robinson trial, Judge Taylor receives a request to clear the courtroom of all women and children. Judge Taylor responds by saying,

People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for. (176)

Judge Taylor's comment concerns perspective, and he acknowledges that people typically adhere to their biases and refuse to view situations from a different perspective.

In chapter 20, Scout and Dill interact with Dolphus Raymond outside of the courthouse, and he reveals that he is not an alcoholic. Dolphus elaborates on being unfairly judged by his prejudiced neighbors and says that once Dill grows older, he won't cry about the unfair treatment of black people. Dolphus then elaborates on how racist citizens refuse to excerise perspective by telling the children.

Cry about the simple hell people give other people—without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they’re people, too. (205)

Dolphus understands that perspective will lead to a more tolerant, understanding society, which will be founded on equality and diversity. At the end of the novel, Atticus reads the story of the The Gray Ghost to Scout, and the main character parallels Boo Radley. Scout then says the characters in the book unfairly judged the friendly protagonist and mentions that the main character was real nice. Atticus responds by saying,

Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them. (285)

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MISS CAROLINE.  Scout's teacher unwisely judges Atticus without ever having met the man, telling Scout that "your father does not know how to teach." It's such a bad first day at school that Scout doesn't want to go back. But Atticus makes a "bargain" with her: She will go back to school and Atticus will continue to read to her each night. He also offers her some good advice, a "simple trick" to getting along with people.

"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.  (Chapter 3)

MISS STEPHANIE.Jem and Scout get most of their information about Boo Radley from Miss Stephanie Crawford, the neighborhood gossip. Miss Maudie warns Scout not to judge Boo from the stories that she hears...

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about town. She tells Scout that Boo "always spoke nicely to me" when he was younger, and that the Maycomb gossip

"... is three-fourths colored folks and one-fourth Stephanie Crawford."  (Chapter 5

BOO RADLEY.  Scout spends much of the novel fantasizing about meeting Boo. She no longer believes that he "dined on raw squirrels" or had bloodstained hands. She almost meets him the night Boo places the blanket upon her shoulders, and she "imagines" exchanging greetings with him as she sits on her porch swing. At the end of the novel, Scout gets to meet Boo: He is now her hero, having saved her life after the attack by Bob Ewell. She has remembered Atticus's advice about it being "a sin to kill a mockingbird," and she equates the innocence of the bird with Boo. She agrees with Sheriff Tate's decision to keep Boo out of the local "limelight."

"... it'd be sort of like shootin' a mockingbird, wouldn't it?"  (Chapter 30)

Later that night, when Scout is looking out upon her neighborhood from the Radley porch, she sees it in a new light--from how Boo may have seen it through his own eyes.

I had never seen our neighborhood from this angle... Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.  (Chapter 31)

MRS. DUBOSE.  Atticus makes Jem read to the terminally ill neighbor as punishment for nearly destroying her prize camellias. The children "hated" her, believing the old lady to be "vicious" and "ruthless." Atticus wants his son to see her other side.

"I wanted you to see something about her--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 but you begin anyway and you see it though no matter what.  (Chapter 11)

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