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11 powerful Harper Lee quotes from 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

11 powerful Harper Lee quotes from 'To Kill a Mockingbird'
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Moni3

It's not a question of whether your heart broke when you first read To Kill a Mockingbird—it's a question of how many times. The late Harper Lee's novel is crammed full of gorgeous lines and heart-tugging sentiments that have shaped how generations of Americans think and feel. Indeed, the book has done so internationally—taught as it is in classrooms from Monroeville to Melbourne. Here, we remember Lee with a look at some of the most memorable and beautiful quotes from her celebrated novel.

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

“The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.”

“I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks.”

“I was born good but had grown progressively worse every year.”

“We're paying the highest tribute you can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It's that simple.”

“Are you proud of yourself tonight that you have insulted a total stranger whose circumstances you know nothing about?”

“You can't really get to know a person until you get in their shoes and walk around in them.” 

“Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself.”

“People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”

"Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don't pretend to understand."

And then, of course, the novel's defining passage: 

Atticus said to Jem one day, "I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird." That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. "Your father’s right," she said. "Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

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