Harper Lee, a luminary of American literature, etched her name into history with a single masterpiece that reverberated across generations. Born in 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama, Lee's indelible contribution to literature was her seminal novel "To Kill a Mockingbird." Published in 1960, the book illuminated the intricate tapestry of racial injustice, moral growth, and the loss of innocence in the racially charged American South. Lee's empathetic portrayal of Scout Finch's coming-of-age journey, set against the backdrop of her father Atticus Finch's valiant battle for justice, transcended the conventions of its time. Lee's sparse yet evocative prose drew readers into the heart of Maycomb's struggles, challenging them to confront their own prejudices and question the societal norms that perpetuate inequality. Beyond the accolades and the Pulitzer Prize, "To Kill a Mockingbird" remains an enduring touchstone in conversations about race, empathy, and the power of storytelling, solidifying Harper Lee's legacy as a writer who exposed the fault lines of society while kindling the flames of positive change.
Harper Lee Quotes
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.
The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that.
As you grow up, always tell the truth, do no harm to others, and don't think you are the most important being on earth. Rich or poor, you then can look anyone in the eye and say, 'I'm probably no better than you, but I'm certainly your equal.
Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.
People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.
Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it - whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.
He turned out the light and went into Jem's room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.
Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of another... There are just some kind of men who - who're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.
It's not necessary to tell all you know.
Things are always better in the morning.
The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.
Writing is a process of self-discipline you must learn before you can call yourself a writer. There are people who write, but I think they're quite different from people who must write.
Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.
Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.
Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I'd have the facts.
People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.
The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box.
It's not necessary to tell all you know. It's not ladylike -in the second place, folks don't like to have somebody around knowing more than they do.
Summer, and he watches his children's heart break. Autumn again and Boo's children needed him. Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.
Some negroes lie, some are immoral, some negro men are not be trusted around women - black and white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men.
I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks.
Sometimes the Bible in the hands of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hands of another.
You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don't you let 'em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change...
Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives.
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.
You rarely win, but sometimes you do.
Are you proud of yourself tonight that you have insulted a total stranger whose circumstances you know nothing about?
Characters make their own plot. The dimensions of the characters determine the action of the novel.
Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself.
There's a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep them all away from you. That's never possible.
My objectives are very limited. I want to do the best I can with the talent God gave me. I hope to goodness that every novel I do gets better and better, not worse and worse.
Everybody’s got to learn, nobody’s born knowing.
There are some men in this world who are born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father's one of them.
I'm gonna be a new kind of clown. I'm gonna stand in the middle of the ring and laugh at the folks.
We're paying the highest tribute you can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It's that simple.
Ladies pick funny things to be proud of.
When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion faster than adults, and evasion simply muddles 'em.
She knew full well the enormity of her offense, but because her desires were stronger than the code she was breaking, she persisted in breaking it.
It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.
This time we aren't fighting the Yankees, we're fighting our friends. But remember this, no matter how bitter things get, they're still our friends and this is still our home.
Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad.
With him, life was routine; without him, life was unbearable.
It's better to be silent than to be a fool.
There's no substitute for the love of language, for the beauty of an English sentence. There's no substitute for struggling, if a struggle is needed, to make an English sentence as beautiful as it should be.
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.
I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.
Things are never as bad as they seem.
She seemed glad to see me when I appeared in the kitchen, and by watching her I began to think there was some skill involved in being a girl.
When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness' sake.
A man can condemn his enemies, but it's wiser to know them.
They're ugly, but those are the facts of life.
Atticus, he was real nice." "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.
Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself...It's a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.
I was born good but had grown progressively worse every year. Scout
It's not time to worry yet.
Mutual defiance made them alike.
Let the dead bury the dead.
Bad language is a stage all children go through, and it dies with time when they learn they're not attracting attention with it.
When you're at the top, there's only one way to go.
When stalking one’s prey, it is best to take one’s time. Say nothing, and as sure as eggs he will become curious and emerge.
Folks don't like to have somebody around knowing more than they do.
I'm no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system -- that is no ideal to me, it is a living, working reality. Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up.
Calpurnia evidently remembered a rainy Sunday when we were both fatherless and teacherless. Let to its own devices, the class tied Eunice Ann Simpson to a chair and placed her in the furnace room. We forgot her, trooped upstairs to church, and were listening quietly to the sermon when a dreadful banging issued from the radiator pipes, persisting until someone investigated and brought forth Eunice Ann saying she didn't want to play Shadrach any more - Jem Finch said she wouldn't get burnt if she had enough faith, but it was hot down there.
You've really got to start hitting the books because it's no joke out here.
I do much of my creative thinking while golfing. If people know you're working at home they think nothing of walking in for a cup of coffee, but wouldn't dream of interrupting on the golf course.
People who write for reward by way of recognition or monetary gain don't know what they're doing. They're in the category of those who write; they are not writers. Writing is simply something you must do. It's rather like virtue in that it is its own reward. Writing is selfish and contradictory in its terms. First of all, you're writing for an audience of one, you must please the one person you're writing for. Yourself.
But sometimes we have to make the best of things, and the way we conduct ourselves when the chips are down.
I'm still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries.
Sometimes it’s better to bend the law a little in special cases.
Dill said striking a match under a turtle was hateful. “How do you know a match don't hurt him?” “Turtles can't feel, stupid,” said Jem. “Where you ever a turtle, huh?
I'm no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system - that is no ideal to me, it is a living, working reality.
As a reader I loathe introductions...Introductions inhibit pleasure, they kill the joy of anticipation, they frustrate curiosity.
Somewhere, I had received the impression that Fine Folks were people who did the best they could with the sense they had, but Aunt Alexandra was of the opinion, obliquely expressed, that the longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was.
Ladies in bunches always filled me with vague apprehension and a firm desire to be elsewhere.
I didn't expect the book to sell in the first place. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of reviewers but at the same time I sort of hoped that maybe someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I'd expected.
That boy is your company. And if he wants to eat up that tablecloth, you let him, you hear?
Southern lawyers don't read novels much.
When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness’ sake. But don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles ‘em. No... you had the right answer this afternoon, but the wrong reasons. Bad language is a stage all children go through, and it dies with time when they learn they’re not attracting attention with it. Hotheadedness isn’t.
Rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.
Best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open.
A mob's always made up of people, no matter what. Mr. Cunningham was part of a mob last night, but he was still a man. Every mob in every little Southern town is always made up of people you know--doesn't say much for them, does it?
Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.
Before Jem looks at anyone else he looks at me, and I’ve tried to live so I can look squarely back at him.
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.
Jem gave a reasonable description of Boo: Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that's why his hands were bloodstained - if you ate animal raw, you could never wash the blood off. There was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time.
You can't really get to know a person until you get in their shoes and walk around in them.
Writing is something you'll never learn in any university or at any school. It's something that is within you, and if it isn't there, nothing can put it there.
To be a serious writer requires discipline that is iron fisted. It's sitting down and doing it whether you think you have it in you or not. Everyday. Alone. Without interruption. Contrary to what most people think, there is no glamour to writing. In fact, it's heartbreak most of the time.
Wordsworth was right when he said that we trail clouds of glory as we come into the world, that we are born with a divine sense of perception. As we grow older, the world closes in on us, and we gradually lose the freshness of viewpoint that we had as children. That is why I think children should get to know this country while they are young.
Try fighting with your head for a change... it's a good one, even if it does resist learning.
Mr. Avery said it was written on the Rosetta Stone that when children disobeyed their parents, smoked cigarettes and made war on each other, the seasons would change: Jem and I were burdened with the guilt of contributing to the aberrations of nature, thereby causing unhappiness to our neighbors and discomfort to ourselves.
There is one way in this country in which all men are created equal—there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is the court.
Nothing is real scary except in books.
Don't you study about other folks's business till you take care of your own.
Long ago, in a burst of friendliness, Aunty and Uncle Jimmy produced a son named Henry.
Writing is simply something you must do. It's rather like virtue in that it is its own reward.
Serving on a jury forces a man to make up his mind and declare himself about something. Men don't like to do that. Sometimes it's unpleasant.
Finders were keepers unless title was proven.
When a man spends his relief checks on green whiskey his children have a way of crying from hunger pains.
Whatever she says to you, it’s your job not to let her make you mad.
One must lie under certain circumstances and at all times when one can't do anything about them.
I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again.
Talking to Francis gave me the sensation of settling slowly to the bottom of the ocean.
Where are your pants, son?
Being Southerners, it was a source of shame to some members of the family that we had no recorded ancestors on either side of the Battle of Hastings.
Naturally, you don't sit down in "white hot inspiration" and write with a burning flame in front of you. But since I knew I could never be happy being anything but a writer, and Mockingbird put itself together for me so accommodatingly, I kept at it because I knew it had to be my first novel, for better or for worse.
I do my best to love everybody
I suppose she chose me because she knew my name; as I read the alphabet a faint line appeared between her eyebrows, and after making me read most of My First Reader and the stock-market quotations from The Mobile Register aloud, she discovered that I was literate and looked at me with more than faint distaste. Miss Caroline told me to tell my father not to teach me any more, it would interfere with my reading.
My book had a universal theme. It's not a "racial" novel. It portrays an aspect of civilization, not necessarily Southern civilization.
My father is one of the few men I've known who has genuine humility, and it lends him a natural dignity. He has absolutely no ego drive, and so he is one of the most beloved men in this part of the state.
As I made my way home, I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn't much else for us to learn, except possibly algebra.
Havin' a gun around's an invitation to somebody to shoot you.
It's quite a thing, if you've never been in or known a small southern town. The people are not particularly sophisticated, naturally. They're not worldly wise in any way. But they tell you a story whenever they see you.
I don't want to hear any words like that while I'm here. Scout, you'll get in trouble if you go around saying things like that. You want to grow up to be a lady, don't you?' I said not particularly.
There was nowhere to go, but I turned to go and met Atticus's vest front. I buried my head in it and listened to the small internal noises that went on behind the light blue cloth: his watch ticking, the faint crackle of his starched shirt, the soft sound of his breathing. 'Your stomach's growling,' I said. 'I know it,' he said.
You see they could never, never understand that I live like I do because that's the way I want to live.
― Harper Lee Quotes
Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.