Atticus Finch’s quotes with clues

By Harper Lee Release Year: 1960

Although the narrator of the book is Scout, her father Atticus’s statements shape most of the moral standpoints of the narrative. To stress all the important things he says in the book one page is not enough, so we have picked out the most expressive.

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, p. 34)

This is one of the most famous quotes from the book. These words are the basis of the tolerance lessons that the book teaches us. Atticus wants his daughter to learn how to understand people rather than judge them. It is a kind of recipe for living in peace with others and herself. He knows how sensitive she is to any kind of what she thinks is unfair. So he tries to show her that sometimes the reason for that is a lack of understanding. In other words, he wants her to not judge people rashly since it impacts not the people but her own feelings.

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 'em. 

(Chapter 9, p. 92)

When Atticus’s brother tells him that he hasn’t answered the Scout question directly, he reacts expressively. Atticus is sure that children always feel when somebody tries to fool them. That is why he doesn't spare time to talk to his kids and answer their questions without prevarication. That is one of the central parenting lessons of a book - to take kids seriously.  

Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.

(Chapter 10, p. 94)

This phrase gives the book its title. Atticus tells his son that killing a mockingbird is utterly wrong. Later Ms. Maudie explains his words, saying that mockingbirds are harmless and innocent creatures. They do nothing bad but sing their hearts out for people to enjoy. Metaphorically mockingbirds refer to the case of Tom Robinson. For Atticus, the accusation of the young black man, who is about to be killed just for his unreserved kindness. Tom’s death is what Finch calls the killing of a mockingbird.

They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... 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. 

(Chapter 11, p. 109)

Although Atticus don’t share the common views of the people of Maycomb and have to withstand the whole town, he never consider his own views as superior in any way. He tries to teach his kids to be tolerant in general. Not only to those who has different skin color, gender or belong to a different social group, but also to those who have a different opinion. Yet, it doesn’t mean he is going to change himself for others. He admits the right of people to argue with him. However, above all, he values the peace with his own consciousness.   

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 see it through no matter what. 

(Chapter 11, p. 116)

That is one of the examples that demonstrate Atticus’s ethical guiding lines. The courage for him is not the power of hurting somebody, but the power to win over yourself. To move forward without expecting you to win, but moving anyway - that what determines people’s courage. Through the experience of Mrs. Dubose, he wanted his son to understand what it means to be brave. At the same time, her example illustrates the ‘standing in someone’s shoes’ importance. The boy had no respect to the old lady unless he learns the truth of her condition.

So it took an eight-year-old child to bring 'em to their senses.... That proves something — that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they're still human.  

(Chapter 16, p. 160)

Another important agenda of the book is that every wild mob consists of people. And even though they seem losing their humanity, every of them separately is a human, whose heart can be touched. This conclusion is somehow surprising for Atticus as well. He has hardly expected that the people who came to lynch Tom, can be stopped by touching and spontaneity of the child.