Quotes from To Kill A Mockingbird

/ 8 March 2011

As the final book for FYS we’re reading To Kill A Mockingbird. The first, albeit minor, portion of this fourth journal entry of the second semester is to list at least five quotes that are well-written or insightful. The second, and slightly more meaty, portion of this fourth journal is reflecting on these two specific quotes from the book: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” and “Sometime’s it’s better to bend the law a little in special cases.” (both from page thirty-three).

  1. “In spite of our warnings and explanations it drew him as the moon draws water, but drew him no farther than the light-pole on the corner, a safe distance from the Radley gate.” (Lee 9)

  2. “Because that’s the only way he can pay me. He has no money.” (Lee 23) As well as the entire portion describing the Cunningham family.

  3. “I never went to school,” he said, “but I have a feeling that if you tell Miss Caroline we read every night she’ll get after me, and I wouldn’t want her after me.” (Lee 35)

  4. “For some reason, my first year of school had wrought a great change in our relationship: Calpurnia’s tyranny, unfairness, and meddling in my business had faded to gentle grumblings of general disapproval.” (Lee 38)

  5. “I thought I wanted to be a lawyer but I ain’t so sure now!” (Lee 55)

The second portion of this journal entry is reflection on the two specific quotes I’d listed at the start. Neither of these reflections are tied closely to the text, but rather they are reflections on the inner meaning of the quotes.

I’ll start with the first of the two quotes: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” It is fairly clear that we can’t know any details about someone without actually having some kind of conversation (be it in person, over the phone, using social media, etc.) with them, but even after talking with them do you really know them well? That is the question this quote gets at. You can know every little detail about a person’s life, but unless you can see the world through their eyes you will not understand them completely. Why is this? My theory is that it is because we are all unique, and regardless of how close we are to one another, fully understanding someone is only achieved once you understand how they view the world. This is no easy task, it cannot be done by having a casual conversation with someone. You need to put your own point of view aside and step into the shoes of the other person. How does one action of yours affect their life? Does that one bill that just became law hurt them where it helps you? Why do they dispose that candidate? Is their work or home life affecting their views on you? These are but a few of the questions that will help you understand someone better. Shadowing them for a while will be more beneficial, but much less practical. I strive to understand those closest to me to this extent, but beyond family (and in some ways even including family) it gets quite complicated. The reason here is that the relationships I have with some of these people simply aren’t deep enough to warrant those often emotional and secretive excursions. Whenever I see signs that someone I know has accomplished this level of understanding of their peers I will generally think higher of them, but rarely have I actually seen this. That said, I believe that we do more of this than we realize (or can recognize in others) just in the wake of day-to-day interactions. There are also times when our task is to effectively do this, but we aren’t aware that this is what we’re doing.

The second quote to dig a little into is: “Sometime’s it’s better to bend the law a little in special cases.” At first read this quote feels like something I’d never even consider doing. Why would there ever be cases where bending the law is acceptable or necessary? This quote transcends governmental law (what the various Congresses enact) and goes on to include physical and natural laws. Nonetheless, why would we ever bend these laws? One reason is the simple fact that laws are written in time, therefore it is conceivable (and our history has proven) that as they grow old we have legitimate reasons to bypass and ignore them. Usually laws get amended to fix them before this time, but not always. There will also always be the question of what is better and more important to adhere to, laws of the land and nature, or what is nest for you and others? In special cases the laws will not actually fall in line with what is best morally, in those cases it may be acceptable to break the law. A major example of this idea is civil disobedience. By definition civil disobedience is knowingly breaking a law for a good and moral cause. People have used this method to attempt to change law or policy, and it has been proven effective. Beyond this example we can look at times when the law is so old that it restricts proper behavior in the present. Some of this is what the Civil Rights Movement was tied up in, as the African-American population got more and more important. Personal experiences related to these ideas are fairly insignificant, but the underlying views on them are part of what, as with anyone, helps to define some of my values.

Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird (New York, NY: First Harper Perennial Moder Classics, 2006)