To Kill a Mockingbird

Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon
Prejudice Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
Small Town Southern Life Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in To Kill a Mockingbird, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Theme Icon

To Kill a Mockingbird is largely remembered of in terms of the trial of Tom Robinson and its racist outcome. For this reason, people often think that the book's theme is simple, a straightforward criticism of racism and evil. But To Kill a Mockingbird is actually more complicated (and interesting). Except in the case of Bob Ewell, the novel avoids simple portrayals and criticisms of "evil." Instead, it shows through Scout and Jem's experiences that Maycomb and its citizens are a complicated mixture of good and bad, full of people with strengths and weaknesses.

There are two characters of almost complete good in To Kill a Mockingbird: Atticus and Boo Radley. But they are good in different ways. Boo maintains his goodness by hiding from the world, while Atticus engages with it. Atticus acknowledges the evil in people and the world and fights against that evil, but he also appreciates what is good in the very same people who through fault or weakness might be supporting an evil cause. Atticus believes that everyone has a basic human dignity, and that he therefore owes each person not only respect, but the effort to try to understand their point of view. Atticus tries to instill this worldview in Scout when he tells her that instead of condemning people for doing things that she thinks are cruel, or unfair, or just plain weird, she should first try "standing in their skin."

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Good, Evil, and Human Dignity Quotes in To Kill a Mockingbird

Below you will find the important quotes in To Kill a Mockingbird related to the theme of Good, Evil, and Human Dignity.
Chapter 3 Quotes
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.
Related Characters: Atticus Finch (speaker)
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

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"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!
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Calpurnia (speaker), Walter Cunningham
Page Number: 32-33
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes
"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."
Related Characters: Miss Maudie Atkinson (speaker), Nathan Radley
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9 Quotes
"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: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Tom Robinson
Page Number: 100-101
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 10 Quotes
"Remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.
"Your father's right," she said. "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."
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Miss Maudie Atkinson (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Mockingbird
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes
The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.
Related Characters: Atticus Finch (speaker)
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 12 Quotes
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?"

… When I looked down the pathway again, Lula was gone. In her place was a solid mass of colored people.

One of them stepped from the crowd. It was Zeebo, the garbage collector. "Mister Jem," he said, "we're mighty glad to have you all here. Don't pay no 'tention to Lula, she's contentious because Reverend Sykes threatened to church her. She's a troublemaker from way back, got fancy ideas an' haughty ways—we're mighty glad to have you all."
Related Characters: Lula (speaker), Jean Louise Finch (Scout), Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem), Calpurnia, Reverend Sykes
Page Number: 158-159
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 13 Quotes
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.
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Aunt Alexandra
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 19 Quotes
“The way that man called him 'boy' all the time an' sneered at him, an' looked around at the jury every time he answered— … It ain't right, somehow it ain't right to do 'em that way. Hasn't anybody got any business talkin' like that—it just makes me sick."
Related Characters: Charles Baker Harris (Dill) (speaker), Tom Robinson, Mr. Gilmer
Page Number: 266
Explanation and Analysis:

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"If you had a clear conscience, why were you scared?"

"Like I says before, it weren't safe for any nigger to be in a—fix like that."

"But you weren't in a fix—you testified that you were resisting Miss Ewell. Were you so scared that she'd hurt you, you ran, a big buck like you?"

"No suh, I's scared I'd be in court, just like I am now."

"Scared of arrest, scared you'd have to face up to what you did?"

"No suh, scared I'd hafta face up to what I didn't do."
Related Characters: Tom Robinson (speaker), Mayella Ewell, Mr. Gilmer
Page Number: 265
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 22 Quotes
They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it—seems that only children weep.
Related Characters: Atticus Finch (speaker)
Page Number: 285
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 25 Quotes
Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch, Tom Robinson, Mayella Ewell
Page Number: 323
Explanation and Analysis:

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[Jem] was certainly never cruel to animals, but I had never known his charity to embrace the insect world.

"Why couldn't I mash him?" I asked.

"Because they don't bother you," Jem answered in the darkness. He had turned out his reading light.
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem) (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Mockingbird
Page Number: 320
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 31 Quotes
A boy trudged down the sidewalk dragging a fishing pole behind him. A man stood waiting with his hands on his hips. Summertime, and his children played in the front yard with their friend, enacting a strange little drama of their own invention. It was fall, and his children fought on the sidewalk in front of Mrs. Dubose's. . . . Fall, and his children trotted to and fro around the corner, the day's woes and triumphs on their faces. They stopped at an oak tree, delighted, puzzled, apprehensive. Winter, and his children shivered at the front gate, silhouetted against a blazing house. Winter, and a man walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog. Summer, and he watched 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.
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem), Atticus Finch, Arthur Radley (Boo), Charles Baker Harris (Dill), Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose
Page Number: 374
Explanation and Analysis:

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When they finally saw him, why he hadn't done any of those things . . . Atticus, he was real nice. . . ." His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me. "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them." 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.
Related Characters: Jean Louise Finch (Scout) (speaker), Atticus Finch (speaker), Jeremy Atticus Finch (Jem), Arthur Radley (Boo)
Page Number: 376
Explanation and Analysis:

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