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Quotes about Racism:

“Scout,” said Atticus, “nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything—like snot-nose. It’s hard to explain—ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves. It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.”

“You aren’t really a nigger-lover, then, are you?”

“I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody… I’m hard put, sometimes—baby, it’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.”

Related Characters: Atticus Finch (speaker), Scout.

Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Atticus explains his daughter the issue of racism and the fact that he doesn’t want any special rights for Negroes, but rather tries to love everybody equally, irrespective of their skin colour. He also explains that calling someone names does not work as an insult but actually shows how poor is the person trying to insult other people.

Lula stopped, but she said, “You ain’t got no business bringin’ white chillun here—they got their church, we got our’n. It is our church, ain’t it, Miss Cal?”

Related Characters: Lula (speaker), Scout and Jem, Calpurnia

Explanation and Analysis:

Scout and Jem get into a situation where they become objects of racism and prejudice, thus experiencing this kind of injustice themselves, which helps the reader to feel what it is.

Quotes about Justice:

“Atticus, you must be wrong….”

“How’s that?”

“Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong….”

Related Characters: Scout, Atticus

Explanation and Analysis:

In this conversation with Scout, answering her questions, Atticus tries to explain her that the majority is not always right and a person must follow their own conscience when deciding what is wrong and what is right.

Quotes about Morality and Respect:

“If you shouldn’t be defendin’ him, then why are you doin’ it?”

“For a number of reasons,” said Atticus. “The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again.” […]

“Atticus, are we going to win it?”

“No, honey.”

“Then why-”

“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win,” Atticus said.

Related Characters: Atticus Finch, Scout

Explanation and Analysis:

For Atticus Finch, his moral authority and self-respect are based on his ability to do the things he considers proper and lawful. If in some situation he chooses to give up supporting justice and moral values, he will lose his self-respect, and his ability to judge and guide people, and even his own children, will suffer. He will feel he has lost his reputation and his moral ground. Thus, he decides to defend the black man, even though the chances are slim that he will win.

“There’s some folks who don’t eat like us,” she whispered fiercely, “but you ain’t called on to contradict ’em at the table when they don’t. That boy’s yo’ comp’ny and if he wants to eat up the table cloth you let him, you hear?”

“He ain’t company, Cal, he’s just a Cunningham-”

“Hush your mouth! Don’t matter who they are, anybody sets foot in this house’s yo’ comp’ny, and don’t you let me catch you remarkin’ on their ways like you was so high and mighty! Yo’ folks might be better’n the Cunninghams but it don’t count for nothin’ the way you’re disgracin’ ’em—if you can’t act fit to eat at the table you can just set here and eat in the kitchen!”

Related Characters: Calpurnia (speaker), Scout

Explanation and Analysis:

Cal teaches Scout to treat people with respect, no matter their differences or social position (the Cunninghams are a poor family). This quote also shows that black people have morals, too, and can teach white people how to behave properly.

Quotes about Family:

“If Uncle Atticus lets you run around with stray dogs, that’s his own business, like Grandma says, so it ain’t your fault. I guess it ain’t your fault if Uncle Atticus is a nigger-lover besides, but I’m here to tell you it certainly does mortify the rest of the family-”

“Francis, what the hell do you mean?”

“Just what I said. Grandma says it’s bad enough he lets you all run wild, but now he’s turned out a nigger-lover we’ll never be able to walk the streets of Maycomb again. He’s ruinin’ the family, that’s what he’s doin’.”

Related Characters: Scout’s Cousin Francis, Scout

Explanation and Analysis:

Family is an important theme in the novel’s world. The relatives of Atticus Finch think his position is not only his own business, but it influences the reputation of the entire family. And in a small town like fictional Maycomb, reputation matters, while defending a black man is an unpopular move. The racist relatives of Atticus know it and try to persuade his children not to support their father.

“I’m sorry, brother,” she murmured. Having never heard her call Atticus “brother” before, I stole a glance at Jem, but he was not listening. He would look up at Atticus, then down at the floor, and I wondered if he thought Atticus somehow responsible for Tom Robinson’s conviction.

Related Characters: Aunt Alexandra (speaker), Scout, Atticus

Explanation and Analysis:

Normally Scout does not really like Aunt Alexandra, Atticus’s sister. She thinks her aunt is too conservative, harsh, and never supports other people. So when the aunt comes to the court to see the trial where Atticus is defending Tom Robinson, Scout thinks trouble will come of it.

However, she is mistaken. When Tom Robinson is found guilty and sentenced to death, and Atticus and the children feel really down and frustrated, the aunt expresses her support and sympathy for her brother. In fact, this is the first time Scout hears her addressing Atticus as “brother”, a word showing Alexandra’s support in this hard situation. Although Aunt Alexandra still keeps her racist views, she chooses to care for her brother’s feelings and shows that she is a kinder and more caring person than she seemed before.

There was indeed a caste system in Maycomb, but to my mind it worked this way: the older citizens, the present generation of people who had lived side by side for years and years, were utterly predictable to one another: they took for granted attitudes, character shadings, even gestures, as having been repeated in each generation and refined by time. Thus the dicta No Crawford Minds His Own Business, Every Third Merriweather Is Morbid, The Truth Is Not in the Delafields, All the Bufords Walk Like That, were simply guides to daily living: never take a check from a Delafield without a discreet call to the bank; Miss Maudie Atkinson’s shoulder stoops because she was a Buford; if Mrs. Grace Merriweather sips gin out of Lydia E. Pinkham bottles it’s nothing unusual—her mother did the same.

Related Characters: Scout

Explanation and Analysis:

In Maycomb, family means destiny and people are expected to behave exactly like their parents did. This might give rise to prejudice and limit individual freedom, but on the other hand, people are not expected to improve themselves and can blame their families for their vices. Everybody is comfortable with that.

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