To Kill a Mockingbird
Morality and Ethics Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"Son, I have no doubt that you've been annoyed by your contemporaries about me lawing for niggers, as you say, but to do something like this to a sick old lady is inexcusable. I strongly advise you to go down and have a talk with Mrs. Dubose," said Atticus. "Come straight home afterward." (11.43)
Even when others do things that Atticus would rather eat spiders than do, he still thinks they should be treated with respect. In his moral system, just because Mrs. Dubose strikes out at Jem doesn't mean he's allowed to strike back. Atticus is definitely a New Testament kind of guy, turning the other cheek rather than going after an eye for an eye.
"Atticus, you must be wrong...."
"Well, most folks seem to think they're right and you're wrong...."
"They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions," said Atticus, "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." (11.54-57)
Democracy may determine how a group will act, but it can't control what a person thinks: the jury can vote to find Tom guilty, but it can't make everyone in Maycomb believe that he is. (But you think that makes him feel any better?)
I said I would like it very much, which was a lie, but one must lie under certain circumstances and at all times when one can't do anything about them. (13.20)
Adulthood lesson numero uno: sometimes doing what people want you to do is the best way. Is it moral? Well, when it comes to little white lies to spare someone's feelings—maybe it actually is.