To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Life Lessons

Russ Jamieson Books, Personal Development

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a brilliant book (written in 1960) with some great lessons.  The plot is a loose account of the events that unfolded in the author’s hometown when she was 10 years old.  Her father, Atticus Finch, is a lawyer who is defending a seemingly innocent black man (Tom) accused of raping a white girl.  The book deals with some serious issues, but has an innocence to it since it’s told from the perspective of a 10 year old girl.  Atticus Finch is the hero of this book because he stands up for what he believes in even when most people are against him.  His courage in the face of adversity is something we should all aspire to.

Lessons learned

1 – Never judge someone

Before judging someone, try and see things from their perspective. People are complicated – we are all different and have different desires, ambitions, values, etc.  Learn about their lives and understand that you can never judge them.  In other words, never judge a book by it’s cover.

to-kill-a-mockingbird-judging-someoneGetty Images / iStockphoto / absolut_100

2 – Treat everyone equally and with respect

Don’t act like you’re better than anyone else.  In the end, we’re all the same and all want the same things in life.  This is a big theme in the book as it deals with racial inequality in the 1930’s.  Treat everyone with respect no matter their sex, religion, race, etc. just as Atticus did.

“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” 

To Kill a Mockingbird One kind of folksGetty Images / iStockphoto / joeshmo

3 – Non-violence prevails

Atticus was a man of character and explains that it is more noble to fight with your head rather than your fists.

to-kill-a-mockingbird-take-the-high-roadGetty Images / iStockphoto / mauricioalberto

4 – Be true to yourself and stand up for what’s right

Atticus respects everyone’s opinion, even those who don’t agree with him, but he makes decisions about how to act based on his own moral compass. You have to follow your own moral code, regardless of what others believe.  Atticus has to defend Tom because it’s the right thing to do, whether or not others agree with him.  He explains that you should never give up, especially when you’re standing up for what’s right.

“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” 

to-kill-a-mockingbird-living-with-yourselfGetty Images / Mike Powell
never-give-upGetty Images / iStockphoto / nopparit

5 – It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird

This quote is powerful and very well-known.  It means many different things to many people, but the most accepted idea is that involving innocence.  Atticus explains to the children that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird because it’s a living creature that does no harm.  It’s a sin to harm anyone who hasn’t harmed us.  A mockingbird only creates beauty.  We should protect things of innocence and beauty.  Tom could be innocent and that is why Atticus is trying to protect him.

The mockingbird could also represent the children’s innocence that was lost when they see what men are willing to do to each other based on their prejudices.

Another interesting meaning – mockingbirds mimic other bird songs.  It would be wrong to kill a mockingbird based on what it’s “saying” because it’s simply copying another bird.  This could be the same with children.  They are simply copying what their parents taught them (such as racism), so you can’t fault them for it.  You have to teach them a new song.

to-kill-a-mocking-bird-innocenceGetty Images / iStockphoto / Photosampler

6 – Don’t take anything for granted

to-kill-a-mockingbird-grantedGetty Images / iStockphoto / 8213erika

Honorable mentions

7 – Think for yourself, instead of following the crowd.

8 – It’s not okay to hate anyone.

“‘But it’s okay to hate Hitler?’ ‘It is not … it’s not okay to hate anybody'”

9 – Most people are nice when you really get to know them.

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

10 – People are not always what they seem. 

11 – Courage comes from within.

12 – Remain calm and civilized, even when people are rude to you.



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Russ JamiesonTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Life Lessons