Atticus Finch is the voice of reason in To Kill A Mockingbird. His words are filled with wisdom, empathy, common sense, and also observes the racial injustice in society. Let’s explore some remarkable quotes from the novel that address its themes.
In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins.Atticus to Jem (Chapter 23, page 215)
This statement summarizes the crux of the events in the novel, Tom Robinson was falsely accused of raping a white girl, and it was the white girl and her father’s testimony against black Tom Robinson’s. Atticus pointed out that sad truth to Jem, who was sad about the unfair outcome of Tom Robinson’s court case who was unjustly pronounced guilty by the jury.
Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up is something I don’t pretend to understandAtticus Finch (Chapter 9, page 90)
This is Atticus wondering aloud at the utter loss of reason and objectivity that the average white people of the South display when dealing with matters concerning black people.
He was telling his brother Jack about the hateful reactions people were exhibiting towards the accused Tom’s family and towards him the defense attorney and even towards his innocent children.
As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men everyday of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it–whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trashAtticus to Jem (Chapter 23, page 215)
Here, Atticus was telling Jem about the moral depravity of white people cheating black people. To put this into context, the black people of the era were disadvantaged in relation to the white in so many ways–in terms of education, opportunities, economic well being, the law etc– and so for Atticus, it holds much more cruelty for a white person with all his privileges to cheat such a disadvantaged person.
The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentment right into a jury boxAtticus Finch (Chapter 23, page 215)
This quote depicts the inefficacy of the legal system in giving justice. It shows that despite the idealistic tenets of the law, the court is still as good as (or as bad as) the people among whom the court exists. The jury is made up of southern commoners with racist sentiments who do not know how to keep those sentiments aside and judge a case objectively.
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, page 32)
This is Atticus teaching Scout that putting oneself in another’s position helps us understand them better. The use of the word ”skin” in this statement carries both literal and figurative connotations with respect to the racial theme of the novel.
There are just some kind of men who are so busy worrying about the next world they never learned to live in this oneMaudie Atkinson to Scout (Chapter 5, page 47)
The character Maudie Atkinson made this statement in reference to overzealous Christians who believe that every form of pleasure and enjoyment in life is a sin.
Fighting for a Cause
Try fighting with your head for a changeAtticus to Scout (Chapter 9, page 78)
Atticus said this while admonishing Scout for always getting into fistfights when provoked. In his gentle manner, Atticus was trying to teach Scout that the intellect is a more effective tool in fighting for a just cause than physical strength.
Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to winAtticus to Scout (Chapter 9, page 78 )
This quote is preaching that even when the odds are against you, you should still give your best in fighting for what you believe in.
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 through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.Atticus to Jem (Chapter 11, page 112)
Atticus drew this lesson for Jem from the case of Mrs Dubose who died in pain because of her insistence to quit taking morphine, an addictive drug prescribed by her doctor to help her deal with the pain of her arthritis.
Atticus was painting a different picture of courage for Jem after Jem had witnessed Atticus’s brilliant marksmanship with a gun.
It is a sin to kill a mockingbirdAtticus to Scout and Jem (Chapter 10, page 91)
The mockingbird is a lovely bird that makes beautiful music and poses no danger or loss to people. Atticus was telling his children not to kill such a creature because it would be cruel to kill such a dear bird.
The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscienceAtticus to Scout (Chapter 11, page 106)
This was Atticus’s reaction to Scout who wondered how the majority of the people in their community could be wrong for believing in racial discrimination and prejudice. Atticus teaches Scout that a notion is not right just because it is popular. He was teaching Scout to be guided by her own convictions irrespective of what the majority of people think.
When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness’ sake. But don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles ’emAtticus to his brother Jack (Chapter 9, page 89)
Atticus was saying this to his brother Jack after Jack had evaded a question posed by Scout. Atticus was always honest and open to his children and often answered their questions like they were grownups.
He was trying to make Jack to understand that children are smarter and more adept at comprehending things than most adults give them credit for.
What happened to Jem and Scout’s mother?
Jem and Scout’s mother died of a heart attack. The heart condition that led to the heart attack was said to run in her family. Scout was only two years old when her mother died and so did not feel her absence but Jem was six years old then and had a recollection of her.
Who did Scout recognize during the scene at the jail?
Scout recognized Mr Walter Cunningham among the mob at the jail.
Mr Walter Cunningham was a local farmer, poor but with a good family name. Atticus had rendered legal services to him in the past without asking for payment and his son Walter was Scout’s classmate.
Why does Atticus go to the jail?
Atticus went to the jail to protect Tom Robinson because there were speculations that some of the townspeople were planning to break into the jail where Tom was and lynch him.
Why did Scout call Jem a traitor?
Scout called Jem a traitor because Jem reported to Atticus when Dill ranaway from home and sneaked into their house. Scout and Dill were planning to keep it a secret from the adults and Scout felt Jem was a traitor for exposing the secret.