To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the world’s most enduringly popular novels for readers of all ages, an unforgettable classic. The below extracts are designed to be discussed throughout the course of a full reading group or book club session.
Choose from the following key passages to read from and discuss:
p.5 Introduction to Maycomb
p.33 Advice from Atticus
‘First of all,’ he said, ‘if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along better with all kinds of folks. 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.
p.50 Wisdom from Miss Maudie
I was shocked. ‘Atticus doesn’t drink whisky,’ I said. ‘He never drunk a drop in his life – nome, yes he did. He said he drank some one time and didn’t like it.’
Miss Maudie laughed. ‘Wasn’t talking about your father,’ she said. ‘What I meant was, if Atticus Finch drank until he was drunk he wouldn’t be as hard as some men are at their best. 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.
pp.99-100 ‘To kill a mockingbird’ quote
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.’
p.120 Atticus on racism
‘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.
p.173 Atticus on mob mentality
Jem spoke. ‘Don’t call that a blind spot. He’da killed you last night when he first went there.’
‘He might have hurt me a little,’ Atticus conceded, ‘but son, you’ll understand folks a little better when you’re older. 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?’
‘I’ll say not,’ said Jem.
‘So it took an eight-year-old child to bring ’em to their senses, didn’t it?’ said Atticus. ‘That proves something – that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they’re still human. Hmp, maybe we need a police force of children . . . you children last night made Walter Cunningham stand in my shoes for a minute. That was enough.’
p.243 Atticus on justice and race
something in our world that makes men lose their heads – they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life.’
‘‘Doesn’t make it right,’ said Jem stolidly. He beat his fist softly on his knee. ‘You can’t just convict a man on evidence like that – you can’t.’
You couldn’t, but they could and did. The older you grow the more of it you’ll see. The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a court-room, be he any colour of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. 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, that white man is trash.’
p.298 Meeting Boo Radley
I looked from his hands to his sand-stained khaki pants; my eyes travelled up his thin frame to his torn shirt. His face was as white as his hands, but for a shadow on his jutting chin. His cheeks were thin to hollowness; his mouth was wide; there were shallow, almost delicate indentations at his temples, and his grey eyes were so colourless I thought he was blind. His hair was dead and thin, almost feathery on top of his head.
When I pointed to him his palms slipped slightly, leaving greasy sweat streaks on the wall, and he hooked his thumbs in his belt. A strange small spasm shook him, as if he heard fingernails scrape slate, but as I gazed at him in wonder the tension slowly drained from his face. His lips parted into a timid smile, and our neighbour’s image blurred with my sudden tears.
‘Hey, Boo,’ I said.