Atticus Finch
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Quotes for
Atticus Finch (Character)
from To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

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To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Atticus Finch: If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

Bob Ewell: You nigger lover.
Atticus Finch: [to Jem] No need to be afraid of him, son. He's all bluff.
[after they get home]
Atticus Finch: 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.

Atticus Finch: [his closing statement] To begin with, this case should never have come to trial. The state has not produced one iota of medical evidence that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place... It has relied instead upon the testimony of two witnesses, whose evidence has not only been called into serious question on cross-examination, but has been flatly contradicted by the defendant. Now, there is circumstantial evidence to indicate that Mayella Ewel was beaten - savagely, by someone who led exclusively with his left. And Tom Robinson now sits before you having taken the oath with the only good hand he possesses... his RIGHT. I have nothing but pity in my heart for the chief witness for the State. She is the victim of cruel poverty and ignorance. But my pity does not extend so far as to her putting a man's life at stake, which she has done in an effort to get rid of her own guilt. Now I say "guilt," gentlemen, because it was guilt that motivated her. She's committed no crime - she has merely broken a rigid and time-honored code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst as unfit to live with. She must destroy the evidence of her offense. But what was the evidence of her offense? Tom Robinson, a human being. She must put Tom Robinson away from her. Tom Robinson was to her a daily reminder of what she did. Now, what did she do? She tempted a Negro. She was white, and she tempted a Negro. She did something that, in our society, is unspeakable. She kissed a black man. Not an old uncle, but a strong, young Negro man. No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards. The witnesses for the State, with the exception of the sheriff of Maycomb County have presented themselves to you gentlemen, to this court in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption... the evil assumption that all Negroes lie, all Negroes are basically immoral beings, all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women. An assumption that one associates with minds of their caliber, and which is, in itself, gentlemen, a lie, which I do not need to point out to you. And so, a quiet, humble, respectable Negro, who has had the unmitigated TEMERITY to feel sorry for a white woman, has had to put his word against TWO white people's! The defendant is not guilty - but somebody in this courtroom is. Now, gentlemen, in this country, our courts are the great levelers. In our courts, all men are created equal. I'm no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and of our jury system - that's no ideal to me. That is a living, working reality! Now I am confident that you gentlemen will review, without passion, the evidence that you have heard, come to a decision and restore this man to his family. In the name of GOD, do your duty. In the name of God, believe... Tom Robinson.

Scout: May I see your watch? "To Atticus, My Beloved Husband." Atticus, Jem says this watch is gonna belong to him some day.
Atticus Finch: That's right.
Scout: Why?
Atticus Finch: Well, it's customary for the boy to have his father's watch.
Scout: What are you gonna give me?
Atticus Finch: Well, I don't know that I have much else of value that belongs to me... But there's a pearl necklace; there's a ring that belonged to your mother. And I've put them away, and they're to be yours.

Atticus Finch: I remember when my daddy gave me that gun. He told me that I should never point it at anything in the house; and that he'd rather I'd shoot at tin cans in the backyard. But he said that sooner or later he supposed the temptation to go after birds would be too much, and that I could shoot all the blue jays I wanted - if I could hit 'em; but to remember it was a sin to kill a mockingbird.
Jem: Why?
Atticus Finch: Well, I reckon because mockingbirds don't do anything but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat people's gardens, don't nest in the corncrib, they don't do one thing but just sing their hearts out for us.

Atticus Finch: Do you know what a compromise is?
Scout: Bendin' the law?
Atticus Finch: [slightly bemused] Uh, no. It's an agreement reached by mutual consent. Now, here's the way it works. You concede the necessity of goin' to school, we'll keep right on readin' the same every night, just as we always have. Is that a bargain?

Scout: Atticus, do you defend niggers?
Atticus Finch: [startled] Don't say 'nigger,' Scout.
Scout: I didn't say it... Cecil Jacobs did; that's why I had to fight him.
Atticus Finch: [sternly] Scout, I don't want you fightin'!
Scout: I had to, Atticus, he...
Atticus Finch: I don't care what the reasons are: I forbid you to fight.

Atticus Finch: There are some things that you're not old enough to understand just yet. There's been some high talk around town to the effect that I shouldn't do much about defending this man.
Scout: If you shouldn't be defending him, then why are you doing it?
Atticus Finch: For a number of reasons. The main one is that if I didn't, I couldn't hold my head up in town. I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do somethin' again.
[he puts his arm around her]
Atticus Finch: You're gonna hear some ugly talk about this in school. But I want you to promise me one thing: That you won't get into fights over it, no matter what they say to you.

Scout: Why there he is, Mr. Tate. He can tell you his name...
[Looks at the man]
Scout: Hey, Boo.
Atticus Finch: [making introductions] Miss Jean Louise, Mr. Arthur Radley. I believe he already knows you.

Scout: Mr. Tate was right.
Atticus Finch: What do you mean?
Scout: Well, it would be sort of like shooting a mockingbird, wouldn't it?

Atticus Finch: Good Afternoon Miss Dubose... My, you look like a picture this afternoon.
Scout: [hiding behind Atticus whispering to Jem and Dill] He don't say a picture of what.

Atticus Finch: Did you rape Mayella Ewell?
Tom Robinson: I did not, sir.
Atticus Finch: Did you harm her in any way?
Tom Robinson: I did not.

Atticus Finch: Good Lord, I must be losin' my memory. I can't remember whether Jem is twelve or thirteen. Anyway, it'll have to come before the county court. Of course, it's a clear-cut case of self-defense. I'll uh, well I'll run down to the office...
Sheriff Tate: Mr. Finch... do you think Jem killed Bob Ewell? Is that what you think? Your boy never stabbed him.
[Atticus and Sheriff Heck Tate look at Boo]
Sheriff Tate: Bob Ewell fell on his knife - he killed himself. There's a black man dead for no reason. Now the man responsible for it is dead. Let the dead bury the dead this time, Mr. Finch. I never heard tell it was against the law for any citizen to do his utmost to prevent a crime from being committed, which is exactly what he did. But maybe you'll tell me it's my duty to tell the town all about it, not to hush it up. Well, you know what'll happen then. All the ladies in Maycomb, includin' my wife, will be knockin' on his door bringin' angel food cakes. To my way of thinkin', takin' one man who done you and this town a big service, and draggin' him with his shy ways into the limelight - to me that's a sin. It's a sin. And I'm not about to have it on my head. I may not be much, Mr. Finch, but I'm still Sheriff of Maycomb County, and Bob Ewell fell on his knife. Good night, sir.