Quotes from the Inspiring Harper Lee

Revered novelist Harper Lee had a way with words. In July, 2015, Go Set a Watchman, her second novel, was released and sparked controversy as well as immense intrigue. While Lee was already regarded as a classic author in American Literature for her first novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, the release of Go Set a Watchman placed her prominently in the public eye again. It was rare for Lee to appear in interviews or make public appearances, however when she did, her words were powerful and inspirational. Here are some of thought-provoking quotes from her books and interviews:

1. She understood where hate and ignorance came from…

“People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for.”

To Kill a Mockingbird 

2. And how difficult, yet respectful, empathy is:

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To Kill a Mockingbird 

3. She pointed out the incredible power of words, and that sometimes it is better to remain quiet:  

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Alabama Academy of Honor speech, 2007, after being asked if she would like to speak

 4. She exuded humility…

“I have nothing but gratitude for the people who made the film… there seemed to be such a general kindness, perhaps even respect for the material they were working with. I was delighted, touched, happy, and exceedingly grateful.” 

-Lee’s response when asked about the movie adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird in her 1964 interview with Roy Newquist for Counterpoints


5. Which she learned form her father:

“My father is one of the few men I’ve known who has genuine humility, and it lends him a natural dignity. He has absolutely no ego drive, and so he is one of the most beloved men in this part of the state.”

-Interview with Life Magazine, 1961


6. Her aspirations were admirable:

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-Interview with Roy Newquist, Counterpoints, 1964


7. She spoke candidly about writing:

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-Interview with Roy Newquist, Counterpoints, 1964


8. She recognized the difficulties of writing and displayed her perseverance:

“Naturally, you don’t sit down in ‘white hot inspiration’ and write with a burning flame in front of you. But since I knew I could never be happy being anything but a writer, and Mockingbird put itself together for me so accommodatingly, I kept at it because I knew it had to be my first novel, for better or for worse.”  

-Interview with Roy Newquist, Counterpoints, 1964


9. She acutely protested herd mentality:

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To Kill a Mockingbird


10. And of course, had insightful comments about the meaning behind To Kill a Mockingbird:

“My book had a universal theme. It’s not a ‘racial’ novel. It portrays an aspect of civilization, not necessarily Southern civilization.”

-Birmingham Post-Herald, 1962


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