Happy Birthday Harper Lee: Life Lessons from To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird cover
Category: Reading

Today, Harper Lee turns 89 years old.

She most likely never thought that she’d be headline news as she approached her 10th decade, but the upcoming publication of her second book means that Lee is more talked about this year than at any other time since the release of To Kill A Mockingbird 55 years ago. There’s been some controversy around the situation and some concerns about whether or not Lee, at her age and state of health, could really consent to the publication of a book she wrote in the mid-50s, before Mockingbird, but one thing is for sure; the novel is one of the most hotly anticipated this year – or even this decade.

Of course, regardless of the new book, Harper Lee is worth talking about. She’s probably one of the most widely discussed writers in modern history; Mockingbird is on most school reading lists, is a topic of conversation in university literature classes and book clubs the world over, and its incredibly strong moral message of equality and justice is one that still has impact today, on the second, third, or even fourth read.

In celebration of Harper Lee, then, here are a few important things that we learned from To Kill A Mockingbird

You need to walk a mile in a person’s shoes before you begin to judge them

'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.' Atticus Finch


2. Bravery doesn’t have anything to do with violence

'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.' Atticus Finch


3. At the end of the day, you know what’s right and wrong

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


Underneath, we’re all the same

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


5. Anything can be used negatively in the hands of the wrong people

'Sometimes the Bible in the hands of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hands of another.' Miss Maudie 


6. Rhymes make swearing more fun

'Pass the damn ham, please.' Scout


7. There’s a skill to being a good conversationalist

'Atticus had said it was the polite thing to talk to people about what they were interested in, not about what you were interested in.' Scout


8. Most people are good – or at least, they’re trying to be

'Atticus, he was real nice.'
'Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.'


Childhood curiosity is something to be nurtured, not ignored

'When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness’ sake.' Atticus Finch


10.   Reading really is magical

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


Go Set a Watchman will be released on 14 July 2015.


Image credits:

To Kill a Mochingbird by Jose Sa

Penguin 14 001929 4 by Keir Hardie

1962 ... 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by James Vaughan

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