Courage in to Kill a Mockingbird

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"I wanted to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun." What kinds of heroism and courage are shown in To Kill a Mockingbird? Discuss. Courage is defined as "the quality of mind or spirit enabling one to meet danger or opposition with fearlessness." According to Atticus Finch, one of the main characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, "Courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what." (pg.121). Harper Lee clearly portrays the theme of courage in her novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. One likes to think of a hero, as strong, brave, and meeting all challenges head on. All the characters in this book have a different view as to what courage is, and they all show it in different ways through their everyday lives. Younger characters, like Jem and Scout, see the physical aspect of it, whereas Atticus believes this to be an extremely weak form of courage. He believes in the mental quality of courage. The ability to be in minority and not back down and to be able to change; he admires Mrs. Dubose for her acts of courage that are against all odds. For a younger character, like Scout, courage is often associated with a physical act that is usually dangerous. It is hard for young children to realize that courage can be shown in other aspects of life. Scout sees an example of courage in her father when he shoots the mad dog Tim Johnson (pg.101). Although Atticus does not think of it as very courageous, Jem and Scout are proud of their father and the courage he showed in this dangerous situation. Atticus views courage on a more intellectual level, as a moral thing not something that can be proved with a weapon. Later on in the story, Jem and Scout encounter the vindictive, spiteful Mrs. Dubose who often shouts out racism directed at the passing children because of Atticus’ job. At one point she proclaimed, "Your father's no better than the niggers and trash he works for!" (pg.111). When she blatantly made Atticus an object of ridicule like that, Jem decided that the best way to settle things was to ruin Mrs. Dubose's camellias. Since he could not attack Mrs. Dubose directly, Jem decided to go for something close to her. He is committing a physical act of retaliation, which led to her suffering mental pain yet again. It was a cowardly act, for he dared not step up and confront her. After Atticus heard about this stunt, Jem was made to read to her every afternoon for a month. He now needed mental valour, and he did find it more difficult to source this than the physical bravery he was used to displaying. This is made apparent by him refusing to walk past her house alone, and because Jem was at first terrified of going to see her. Mrs. Dubose was a very sick woman, and had used morphine to ease her pain but was now addicted. It was her goal to leave the world "beholden to nothing and nobody" (pg.120). She displayed what Atticus refers to as "real courage." (pg.121). She showed "real courage" because she does not have the luxury of standing there with a gun pointed at her addiction. One single attempt could not free her from the addiction. Rather, it had to be a many staged process over an extended period of time. It was shear determination and "real courage" that allowed her to accomplish her goal. It was not until after she died that Atticus explained to Jem and Scout how courageous the woman was because she knew she was dying but was still determined to die free of the morphine. She fought against great odds, even though she knew that she would surely die. Atticus tells his children that he wanted them to see "what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand." He also says that she was the "bravest person he ever knew." (pg.121) "Real courage" is when you fight for what is right regardless of whether you win or lose. Atticus Finch demonstrates "real courage" several times throughout...
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