Don’t judge a book by its cover:
Atticus’s advice to Scout echoes throughout the novel as we encounter various characters, from Mr. Raymond to Boo Radley and Mayella Ewell. With our world more divided than ever, Atticus’s words remind us to reach out to others, to try and see the world from their perspective before passing judgement.
Actions speak louder than words:
There’s no shying away from the fact that religion has been used throughout history to defend awful acts. And so Miss Maudie teaches Scout a vital lesson here: we are defined by the way we treat others, and beliefs – religious or otherwise – can never justify cruel behaviour.
Fight with your head, not your fists:
There are actually two lessons to be learned here – are we cheating? Firstly, Atticus is teaching Scout that responding to violence with more violence never achieves anything: two wrongs don’t make a right. And secondly, that the only way to stop a bully (or an internet troll) is to let what they say slide over you. Their only aim is to get a reaction, so patience and restraint are your greatest allies.
Protect the innocent:
Of course, no list of lessons from To Kill a Mockingbird would be complete without the famous line that gave the novel its title! It’s a beautiful reminder that hurting the innocent is the worst crime of all.
Courage is not letting the odds stop you:
Can anyone say ‘toxic masculinity’? Thankfully we have Atticus, who is firm in explaining that an act of violence is not an act of courage. Real bravery is facing an impossible challenge and having the determination to keep going because you know it’s the right thing to do. It’s having lost all hope and carrying on anyway. It’s being afraid and not letting that fear stop you.
Looking at someone isn’t seeing them:
Atticus’s final words in the novel circle back to the first lesson on this list and advise us to never jump to conclusions based on appearances. But they are also a message of hope – a reminder that, despite the Bob Ewells of the world, most people are kind and generous. All you need to do is look closely enough.