Courage in To Kill a Mockingbird
In this world, physical courage often seems to overshadow other kinds of courage. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses the main characters to portray her message about courage. Atticus Finch, a lawyer, is one of the most distinguished men in Maycomb. His two children, Jem and Scout, learn to perceive courage in a more mature and appropriate way as they grow out of the idyllic innocence of childhood. Through her characters, Harper Lee demonstrates that courage is not always necessarily shown physically, but morally as well.
To Atticus, moral courage is more admirable than physical courage. With the neighborhood panicking, Atticus calmly takes the rifle from Mr. Tate to face a dangerous rabid dog on the street. Even though his children marvel at his courageous act, Atticus is uninterested in using this event to educate his children about courage. On the other hand, Atticus explains to Jem why he admires Mrs. Dubose despite her racism, stating “I wanted you to see to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand… According to her[Mrs. Dubose’s] views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew” (Lee 149).
Atticus believes that Mrs. Dubose’s determination and courage obviously overpower his hero-like act. In addition, he admires Mrs. Dubose for confronting her addiction with everything her fragile body and strong mind can offer despite the fact that only few morphine addicts manage to purge themselves of the drug. However, even though she knows her death is a few months away, Mrs. Dubose keeps fighting for what she believes in and overcomes her addiction. Mrs. Dubose most likely reminds Atticus of himself in defending Tom Robinson, a black man, even though he knows that the community is against his decision. Atticus knows that it is inevitable Tom will be convicted regardless of his innocence due to racism that thrives in Maycomb and in its court room. His courage is shown by standing up for what he thinks is right despite the insults and degrading names the citizens of Maycomb throw at him.
... Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, courage is illustrated through the characters of Atticus Finch, Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, and Bob Ewell. Atticus and Mrs. Dubose share ... definitions, most of which are displayed through Atticus, Mrs. Dubose, and the lack of courage Bob Ewell demonstrates. Atticus took on an impossible talk; he ...
In the beginning of the novel, Scout perceives courage as physical action, but she is capable of moral courage as well. Scout does not feel that she can boast about Atticus because, “Our father didn’t do anything. He worked in an office, not in a drugstore… [He did not] do anything that could possibly arouse the admiration of anyone” (118) She does not realize that Atticus is more admirable compared to the other men of Maycomb because she overlooks the moral courage it takes for him to accept a case that turns many of his neighbors against him. Nevertheless, Scout commits acts of moral courage herself. For example, she stands in front of a mob of angry intoxicated men who most likely have violent intentions in mind, but she holds her ground. Because of her innocence, Scout strongly believes that there is some good in the men, so she keeps trying to start a friendly conversation with Mr. Cummingham despite the ominous scene. In addition to standing up to the mob, Scout also stands up to her classmates who insult her because of her father’s defense of Tom Robinson. After Atticus persuades Scout to ignore her violent tendencies, she suppresses her urge to deliver a punch to her taunting classmates even though it means being called a coward behind her back. As an older Scout narrates her story in a flashback, she realizes the importance of moral courage.
Jem also learns the real meaning of courage from his father. Like Atticus, he believes that courage is defined by upholding what is right even if he is alone. However, as a child, he perceived courage as never backing down on a dare, like touching the Radleys’ house. Jem believed that completing that dare proved to Dill “that he wasn’t scared of anything” (17).
... lack of pants. Atticus tells Jem to get his pants from Dill and come home. At home, Jem confides in Scout that he's going ... . That Sunday night, Atticus heads into town, which gives Jem a funny feeling. At bedtime, he, Scout, and Dill walk downtown themselves to ... until Atticus learns of the game. The children play the game less frequently after that, and Jem and Dill begin excluding Scout, spending ...
A more mature Jem demonstrates moral courage on the night when he and Scout discover Dill under her bed, Jem rises to tell Atticus about Dill’s unexpected arrival. Jem believes that they must inform Dill’s parents about his whereabouts, demonstrating moral courage to go against his sister’s and his friend’s wishes to do what he knows is right. As Scout describes, “he rose and broke the remaining code of childhood” (187).
That act of courage shows Jem’s transition from childhood to maturity.
It is apparent that throughout To Kill a Mockingbird courage comes in different forms, whether physical or moral; that is Harper Lee’s message. Atticus is a symbol of moral courage. Scout, despite her tendency to resolve problems in a physical manner, eventually shows acts of moral courage. Jem also ultimately holds moral courage close to his heart and demonstrates it even if it means going against his friends. Although written in the 1930’s, the courage depicted in the novel is relevant in any age.