50 Most Enlightening Harper Lee Quotes on Growth, Resilience and More

Nelle Harper Lee, born 28th April 1926 was an American novelist who became famous for her 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird. The novel won the 1961 Pulitzer prize and has been identified as the classic of modern American literature. Harper Lee’s work was basically based on drama, mystery, fiction, and inspiration observed from neighbors and family in her hometown.

Harper Lee’s books mostly highlighted the irrationalities of people’s attitudes toward different races, castes, and creeds. She received numerous honorary degrees and accolades including the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature.

Her writing art majored in narrative brilliance, visual art as well as a seamless transition into another scene. She was also recognized for coming out bold and discussing major topics such as profanity, rape, and racial slur, and even with these sensitive topics during her time, her novels became a huge sensation with global acceptance by editorials, critics, and tabloids.

Lee’s memorizing stories have had a great significance to the open and honest discussions of community issues such as racism, identity, and maturity. We have selected some of the most interesting, inspirational, and fascinating quotes from her life, writings, and books. Browse through the quotes to get a clear point of view on success, courage conscience, and much more.

Harper Lee Quotes

1. “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 fightin’ with your head for a change. -Atticus Finch”– Harper Lee

2. “You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family, an’ they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ’em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don’t.”– Harper Lee

3. “Are you proud of yourself tonight that you have insulted a total stranger whose circumstances you know nothing about?”– Harper Lee

4. “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.”– Harper Lee

5. “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.”– Harper Lee

6. “Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”–Harper Lee

7. “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.”– Harper Lee

8. “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.”– Harper Lee

9. “But a man who has lived by truth—and you have believed in what he has lived—he does not leave you merely wary when he fails you, he leaves you with nothing.”– Harper Lee

10. “Now, 75 years [after To Kill a Mockingbird], in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books.”– Harper Lee

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11. “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.”– Harper Lee

12. “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.”– Harper Lee

13. “You can’t really get to know a person until you get in their shoes and walk around in them.”– Harper Lee

14. “Cry about the simple hell people give other people- without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they’re people too.”– Harper Lee

15. “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.”– Harper Lee

16. “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.”– Harper Lee

17. “Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.”– Harper Lee

18. “Remember this also: it’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago. It is hard to see what we are. If you can master that trick, you’ll get along.”– Harper Lee

19. “It was something I never expected to – I never expected the book would sell in the first place. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers.”– Harper Lee

20. “I would like to be the chronicler of something that I think is going down the drain very swiftly, and that is small-town, middle-class southern life.”– Harper Lee

21. “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 fightin’ with your head for a change.”– Harper Lee

22. “..Man’s capacity to love is measured by his degree of freedom from the drives that turn inward upon him. As one holds down a cork to the bottom of a stream, so may love be imprisoned by self: remove self, and love rises to the surface of man’s being.”– Harper Lee

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23. “Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.– Harper Lee

24. “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.”– Harper Lee

25. “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.”– Harper Lee

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26. “The only thing I’m afraid of about this country is that its government will someday become so monstrous that the smallest person in it will be trampled underfoot, and then it wouldn’t be worth living in.”– Harper Lee

27. “I came to the conclusion that people were just peculiar, I withdrew from them, and never thought about them until I was forced to.”– Harper Lee

28. “I was not so sure, but Jem told me I was being a girl, that girls always imagined things, that’s why other people hated them so, and if I started behaving like one I could just go off and find some to play with.”– Harper Lee

29. “Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hands of another.”– Harper Lee

30. “The tradition of the South is not urban… I think we are a region of storytellers, naturally, just from our tribal instincts. We did not have the pleasures of the theater or the dance, motion pictures when they came along. We simply entertain each other by talking.”– Harper Lee

31. “This was life in the ’30s. This is the way it was with children in the South. I tried to make it general, the kind of things that might happen to any child.”– Harper Lee

32. “As sure as time, history is repeating itself, and as sure as man is man, history is the last place he’ll look for his lessons.”– Harper Lee

33. “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.”– Harper Lee

34. “They’ve done it before and they’ll do it again and when they do it — seems that only the children weep. Good night.”– Harper Lee

35. “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.’– Harper Lee

36. “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 knowin’ more than they do.”– Harper Lee

37. Good grief, baby, people don’t agree with the Klan, but they certainly don’t try to prevent them from puttin’ on sheets and making fools of themselves in public

38. “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.”– Harper Lee

39. “Ladies bathed before noon, after their three o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.”– Harper Lee

40. “For the life of me, I did not understand how he[Atticus] could sit there in cold blood and read a newspaper when his only son stood an excellent chance of being murdered with a Confederate Army relic.”– Harper Lee

41. “It is all fiction, only autobiographical in the sense it is about a small town. None of the incidents in the book ever happened to me as a child. I didn’t have an eventful childhood.”– Harper Lee

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42. “I have no time to think about other writers. I am too busy with my own problems.”– Harper Lee

43. “I hoped to be able to write a novel which would enable me to live on it while I wrote the next.”– Harper Lee

44. “There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ’em all away from you. That’s never possible.”– Harper Lee

45. “Ladies in bunches always filled me with vague apprehension and a firm desire to be elsewhere.”– Harper Lee

46. “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.”– Harper Lee

47. “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”– Harper Lee

48. “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”– Harper Lee

49. “There are just some kind of men 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.”– Harper Lee

50. “Every lawyer gets one case in his life that affects him personally – this one’s mine I guess.”– Harper Lee

Also see Jane Elliott’s Most Interesting Quotes

Video Summary of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

This is a fun short animated summary of the book. Definitely worth a quick watch to get a refresher on the book, the characters and a plot synopsis.

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Harper Lee was a prominent novelist whose wise saying shed lighting across nations in the entire world. Her themes about discrimination, equality, and racism were very sensitive during her time, but this did not deter her from speaking out her mind boldly to the masses.

Her words have taught growing minds and generations and even advising readers on resilience and growth. She told us that even when we are enduring terrifying and complicated matters, we can still get through them.

This unique lesson is very valuable and we should always remember it when we are fighting the downs in our daily lives. We hope these quotes will change how you see life and build you positively.

If you want to buy this classic book, click here to buy a copy!

Image Credit: “To Kill a Mocking-bird by Harper Lee” by Pickersgill Reef is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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