Courage in 'to Kill a Mockingbird'

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The Theme of Courage in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Harper Lee's novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" explores how courage can be shown in several important characters in the novel. They are Mrs. Dubose, Atticus, Jem and Maycomb County itself. Also Cal, Miss Maudie and Scout show moral and physical courage during the novel. Courage exists in several forms as cleverly depicted in the novel, such as childish courage, moral courage.

I believe that courage definitely plays a major role as a theme in scenes throughout this novel. For a younger child though, like Scout, courage is most often associated with some type of physical act, which involves danger. It is difficult for younger children to grasp the concept that greater courage is most often required in other aspects of life. Scout learns that the greatest courage can be found in a situation where a person knows that they are going to lose, yet still continues to fight the battle.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what."

Harper Lee portrays the idea of courage by first having Scout observe her father perform a physical act of courage when he shoots the mad dog. Although Atticus didn't consider the act very courageous and was completely uninterested in proving anything to his children, Jem and Scout were proud of, and impressed by, his courage in such a precarious situation. But shooting something wasn't really Atticus' idea of courage. He viewed courage on more of a moral idea, not as something that can be proved with a weapon.

An iconic character in the novel known for her split personality and great moral courage is Mrs. Dubose. She was a morphine addict and was addicted to morphine as a painkiller prescribed by her doctor for many years. Despite her being an old, frail lady, who could have just "make (made) things easier" by just continuing to take morphine as Atticus put it, she chose the other path contrary to popular beliefs. Instead, she persevered, choosing to "die beholden to nothing and no one", showing her sheer determination and will to live.

When Mrs Dubose bad-mouthed Atticus, Jem decided that the best way to settle things was to ruin Mrs Dubose's camellias. Jem believed that he was demonstrating courage in defending Atticus though when Atticus learned of this stunt , Atticus wanted Jem to read to Mrs. Dubose not only as a punishment for his misdeeds, but he also wanted to show Jem what true courage really was. He wanted to show Jem that a courageous person is not "a man with a gun in his hand", and that Mrs. Dubose was an excellent example and Atticus looks up to her despite her prejudiced remarks against him such as "nigger-lover".

When Jem and Scout was reading to her, they were terrified of her "undulating lips" with "chords of saliva" dripping out of her mouth and that it had a "separate existence of its own". What the children failed to see in the beginning was what lied underneath those gruesome series of withdrawal fits - true moral courage. Upon the death of Mrs. Dubose, Atticus also mentioned that "she won", not by having a gun in her hands, but with her sheer will power and determination. He hoped that Jem and Scout would be able to respect such a courageous old lady she was. Harper Lee also did not choose a principled character such as Miss Maudie in the portrayal of such courage, but instead used Mrs. Dubose to portray courage instead. This made Mrs. Dubose an interesting and outstanding character with contrasting characteristics in the eyes of the reader. Lee also indirectly trying to show that there is goodness in everyone, despite their evil natures. Lee tries to present Miss Dubose as a character that when we first encounter her that we dislike her foremost characteristics and catty principals but when we learn her true circumstances the reader...
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