To Kill A Mockingbird captured the world’s attention when it was published in 1960 and has never let go. Often the key issues of racism and social justice go hand in hand with this particular novel, but the depth of the human condition that Harper Lee uncovered with her brilliant prose goes far beyond a few, albeit important, themes.
“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.”
The character of Atticus stands as a moral center for a young Scout, and for every reader who’s enjoyed the novel. From him, we learn heavy lessons with simple eloquence. Some situations in your life will not be won. Doing the right thing will not always grant you a victory. But you have to do what’s right anyway. Not only because it’s courageous but because character is formed by your resolution to do the right thing regardless of the cost.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
It’s easy to see people as wholly good or bad. We paint characters in books as either hero or villain and we do the same thing with people in our real lives. But the truth is that most people you know do not wake up in the morning plotting to be the bad guy. Everyone believes that they are the hero. There are more sides than right or wrong and it’s only by trying to empathize with other people that we can truly learn to understand them.
“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.”
If history’s shown us anything it’s that the whole of society can hold a belief that’s absolutely wrong. In today’s political climate where there’s such vitriol, it’s important to respect other people’s opinions and beliefs but that doesn’t mean that you need to change your own.
So many of the major lessons in this stunning novel really come down to simple common decency and goodness. It’s about treating others with the same respect you’d want for yourself and standing up for those who can’t stand on their own. It’s these lessons that remind us that just because something is simple to understand doesn’t mean it’s always easy to do.