On Friday morning, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, died at the age of 89 in her Monroeville, Ala., home. Lee's seminal novel on racial issues in America's deep South was published in 1960 to both critical and commercial success, and remains a classic decades later as the country's struggle for racial equality wages on.
Narrated by 6-year-old Scout, the novel revolves around her small-town lawyer father, Atticus Finch, who is defending a Black man accused of raping a White woman. Along the way, the novel pointedly addresses racial prejudice, life in the Depression-era South, and the challenges of growing up. At its heart, To Kill a Mockingbird is the story of the struggle for justice that captivated both children and adults.
Even Lee herself was taken aback by the overwhelming reception to her novel. "I never expected any sort of success," she reportedly claimed, adding that she was "hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers."
Though Lee's characters and prose inTo Kill a Mockingbird were widely praised, the profound bits of wisdom that she peppered throughout the book contributed to its popularity. Here are some of our favorites:
1. "The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."
2. "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."
3. "Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."
4. "People in their right minds never take pride in their talents."
5. "Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another) ... 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."
6. "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."
7. "We're paying the highest tribute you can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It's that simple."
8. "Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing."
9. "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. Rich or poor, you then can look anyone in the eye and say, 'I'm probably no better than you, but I'm certainly your equal.'"
10. "I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks."
11. "Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win."
12. "Before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself."
13. "Things are always better in the morning."
14. "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."
15. "Pass the damn ham, please."