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Courage in to Kill a Mockingbird

By JonathanC21 Apr 07, 2012 908 Words
Courage in To Kill a Mockingbird

"Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities...because it is the quality which guarantees all others," (Winston Churchill). There are several different ways t be courageous. Harper Lee, in her 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, uses courage as a main theme. Harper Lee demonstrates that if one can tell the truth, change or remain rooted in their morals, they are a minority among people who lack the ability to do so.

In To Kill a Mockingbird there are different characters that show it takes a certain amount of courage to tell the truth. When Dolphus Raymond said, "You little folk won't tell on me now, will you? It'd ruin my reputation if you did," (Lee 227) after he showed the kids that is was Coke in his paper and not alcohol. It was to make the children feel better about the trial. He had the courage to tell the kids the truth, right when there was a whole lot of lying going on in the courtroom, and risked them spreading his story. Another great example is that Tom Robinson, during his trial, had the courage to tell the truth about why he regularly helped Mayella. When Mr. Gilmer asked Tom why he was so obliged to do Mayella's chores for free, Tom ruined any chance he had of winning the case by answering, "I felt right sorry for her, she seemed to try more'n the rest of 'em," (224). Back in the 1930's in the southern hills of Maycomb County, Alabama, where this story takes place, how dare a black man feel sorry for a white woman. The white citizens of the south believed that blacks were the lowest of the low. Lower than trailer trash, like the Ewells. What Tom said contradicted the mindset of the time and he died because of it. Not many characters have the strength to tell the truth, however some do and the make a world of change.

Harper Lee, in To Kill a Mockingbird, shows the readers that having the ability to change is quite significant. Not everyone can, and change can take your life, shake it a bit and when it's put back down you don't know if it is for better or for worse. Scout always used to get into fights. One day, Atticus asked Scout to stop fighting. Scout loves her father very much and doesn't want to disappoint him so she listened, no matter how much she got chided for it. "When I committed myself to a policy of cowardice. Word got around that Scout Finch wouldn't fight anymore, her daddy wouldn't let her," (92). It was courageous of her to change because fighting was a big part of her life and her peers were sure to tease her. Another character that exemplifies the courage to change is Mrs. Dubose. She was addicted to morphine but had the courage to change for the final hours of her life, even though she knew she would die soon no matter what. "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. Courage is when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what," (128). Mrs. Dubose had the courage to change and died content with herself. It's clear that you need to be courageous to change because not many characters change in this story. Maycomb was born in ignorance and Maycomb continued to live in ignorance.

The most courageous acts in To Kill a Mockingbird occur when a character is alone in their morals and remain rooted in those morals no matter what. Atticus is a perfect example of someone "sticking to their guns". The reason that he gives his children as to why he is defending the black man, Tom Robinson is, "Before I can live with other folks, I've got to live with myself," (120). A different example is at the end of the book, when Boo Radley kills Bob Ewell. Sherriff Tate sticks to his morals by reporting that Mr. Ewell fell on his knife. Sherriff Tate told Atticus that if Boo was charged with murder, the attention he would receive from the town's women would kill Boo. Another example of a character being steadfast in their morals is when Calpurnia, knowing that everyone is equal, takes Jem and Scout to the black people's church. Some of the black folks weren't very welcoming to the kids because they were white. "Lula stopped, but she said, 'You ain't got no business bringin' white chillun here-they got their church, we got our'n. It is our church ain't it Miss Cal?' Calpurnia said, 'It's the same God ain't it?'" (136). These characters truly are minorities. That is when they shine and are model citizens of Maycomb County. Seems like being alone, fighting for what they believe in, makes them stronger.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, it is the characters that have the courage to stand out against racism and break the status quo of Maycomb County that are a minority among the characters that don't. Courage is one of the biggest themes in To Kill a Mockingbird and only a special few are able to possess it. As Reggie White said, "God places the heaviest burden on those who can carry its weight."

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